Perhaps the most valuable service I offer is the initial consultation. There is a $300.00 one hour charge for the initial, one-hour consultation with my firm. If the consultation lasts substantially more than than one hour, the additional time will be charged at the same rate. During the consultation we attempt not only to answer the questions you may have, but also to give you answers to questions that will arise for you in the future. It is also a time for you to meet the staff who, together with the lawyer, will assist you throughout your situation. It is wise to bring recent paystubs, bank statements, personal property lists, mortgage payoff statements, retirement quarterly statements, tax returns for at least 2 years, documents you were served with and any prior actions such as Court Orders.
Most attorneys require potential clients to pay an initial retainer fee before the attorney will begin work on the case. It is important to understand law firms vary in how they handle retainers, so be sure to understand the following items in regard to your retainer. A larger practice will often charge you for associate attorney, paralegals, partner time and administrative time in connection with your case. These billable rates are in increments based on the hourly rate applied to this particular staff member. These rates certainly add up quickly with many hands in one file. Here, you have one paralegal, one attorney, with years of experience handling your file, not multiple faces. Here is what you should know about fees:
Once you decide to hire an attorney, your attorney must provide you with a written retainer agreement identifying the costs and hourly fees that apply to your case. It is important you read this document carefully and ask questions regarding any unclear issues. Signing a retainer agreement does not mean that you cannot fire your lawyer or that your lawyer cannot withdraw from the case. You have the right to change lawyers at any time. The retainer agreement, however, will memorialize the terms of your billing relationship with the attorney. Once you have signed the retainer agreement, it is a legally binding and enforceable contract, so always keep a copy of your retainer agreement for later reference.
In Georgia, there are some attorneys who charge fixed flat fees for uncontested divorces. In addition, some attorneys are now charging a flat rate for certain services performed on a case – such as a flat rate of $x for drafting a complaint. Many clients prefer this model because it allows them to know the total cost of the proceeding at the outset of the matter and budget accordingly. Just be careful and understand what happens to your fees should the matter no longer remain “uncontested,” or should you need services outside of those covered in the flat rate.
Although some attorneys offer flat fee structures for contested divorce matters, most attorneys will bill out their time at an hourly rate. An attorney’s hourly rate is influenced by his or her legal experience, reputation, and demand for his or her services. Regardless, you should understand and pay attention not only to the rate charged by your attorney, but also any associate attorneys, paralegals, or legal staff who handle your case since a lot of work on your case can be handled by these individuals, usually at a dramatically lower rate.