1A: The initial consultation is free.
After practicing law for more than twenty (20) years, I’ve realized that the best way to meet with prospective clients is to give them one (1) free hour of my time, at my office, so that we can discuss the merits of his or her case. Within that one (1) free hour office consultation, the prospective client will be able to determine if he or she wants to retain me and I will be able to determine if his or her case has a chance of success.
However, the initial consultation only occurs in my office. I do not offer consultations any other way, such as via email, fax, letter or phone. The whole purpose of an office consultation is to meet the prospective client in person and in private, with complete confidentiality.
If, after the one (1) free hour office consultation, the prospective client does not wish to retain me, or I think the case has little or no merit, then there is no obligation whatsoever and we can go our separate ways.
However, if the prospective client does wish to retain me, the appropriate retainer shall be paid immediately by the client to the attorney, the retainer agreement shall be drafted, and I shall get to work as soon as the full amount of the retainer is paid.2Q: What is your billable rate?
2A: My billable rate is $100.00 per hour.
My billable rate is the extremely reasonable rate of $100.00 per hour. Most of my colleagues have billable rates of $200.00 per hour or even more. I know of some with billable rates as high as $350.00 per hour. The first question prospective clients ask me is this: “why are your rates so low?” And I respond by stating that it is not that my rates are too low, but that other attorneys’ rates are too high.
The $100.00 per hour billing rate is billed at a minimum rate of tenths of an hour (0.1). So, every tenth of an hour of billing is $10.00. As such, it is very easy to determine the costs of my legal services.
On the other hand, I do not discount any aspect of my billing. Every bit of work that I do is billed directly to the client, from simple and short phone calls and emails to large documents and multi-day trials.3Q: What is a retainer?
3A: A retainer is a deposit of money that a client gives to an attorney for the purpose of hiring the attorney for legal services.
The retainer is the advance of money given to an attorney to take on the case and render legal services to the client. The money is deposited directly into an attorney escrow account (IOLA) and the money cannot be withdrawn from the account unless and until it is earned by the attorney. Money is withdrawn from the attorney escrow account on the 1st and the 15th of every month, if there is any money to be withdrawn from the account, and if that money was earned within that time frame.
Also, from time to time, additional money will have to be paid by the client to the attorney if and when the original retainer has been exhausted or is about to be exhausted.
Furthermore, if and when a matter goes to trial, a trial retainer of $500.00 will be required for each day of trial or each part of a day of trial. Obviously, the more complicated the case, the more court appearances will be required. And the more court appearances required, the more expensive it is for the client to pay for my legal services.4Q: How much is your usual retainer?
4A: My usual retainer is $2,500.00.
Almost all of my retainers are $2,500.00 retainers, all of which must be paid immediately at the time that I am retained. There are some exceptions to this rule, which are set forth below. The $2,500.00 retainer applies to the following practice areas:
- Child Abuse and Neglect
- Custody and Visitation
- Family Offenses
- Foster Care
- Juvenile Delinquency
- Persons in Need of Supervision
- Termination of Parental Rights
- Uncontested Divorces
In the event that the full retainer is not earned by me, the remaining, unearned balance of it shall be returned to you. Similarly, if my legal services exceed the retainer, then you will be billed for those legal services, and you will be expected to pay for them as promptly as possible.
Please note that this retainer is exclusive to my legal services only and does not include costs or fees of any kind for any other services, including but not limited to documents, experts, subpoenas, and witnesses. Any costs or fees would be the sole responsibility of the client.
In dealing with clients of limited means, I often offer capped fees. What this means is that I may sometimes cap my legal fees at a certain mutually agreed upon amount beyond which the client will not have to pay me any further money. A standard capped fee on a $2,500.00 retainer in family court is $5,000.00 (double the initial retainer). In other words, if the legal costs involved in the Family Court case exceed $5,000.00, then the client does not have to pay them.
However, these capped fees are only available with regard to family court matters and not with regard to Supreme Court matters (in other words, capped fees do not apply to divorces).5Q: How much is your retainer for relocation cases?
5A: Because relocation cases are usually quite difficult and often require trials, the retainer is more.
In the case of a relocation case, my retainer is $5,000.00. Keep in mind that almost every relocation case requires a trial as the parties rarely consent to the custodial parent moving so far away as to diminish the time the non-custodial parent gets to spend with the child. Also, such trials are often multi-day trials which require multiple witnesses and, sometimes, experts. Relocation cases rarely arise with regard to in-county moves, and more often arise with regard to in-state and out-of-state moves. In rare cases, relocations can be out-of-the-country moves.
These cases are very often hard-fought and, unless the relocating party can prove a variety of factors needed to win, such cases can be quite difficult to win. Thus, such cases require a masterful organization and control of a wide array of facts, which requires a large investment of time and effort on the part of the client and the attorney representing the client.6Q: What are my usual charges for my legal services?
6A: My usual charges for my legal services are simple and straightforward.
I have a schedule of established office charges that I set forth in every retainer:
|1. Initial one (1) hour office consultation (1.0):||Free|
|2. Hourly rate of the attorney:||$100.00|
|3. Minimum increments of billing (0.1; tenths of an hour; six (6) minutes):||$10.00|
|4. Minimum charge for the review of each and every document (inclusive of all emails, faxes, and letters) (0.1):||$10.00|
|5. Minimum charge for each and every phone call (0.1):||$10.00|
|6. Charge for each answering machine or voice mail message (0.1):||$10.00|
|7. Minimum charge for the drafting of emails (0.1):||$10.00|
|8. Minimum charge for the sending of faxes (0.1):||$10.00|
|9. Minimum charge for the drafting of letters (0.3):||$30.00|
|10. Minimum charge for the drafting of pleadings (2.0):||$200.00|
|11. Minimum charge for the drafting of discovery (0.5):||$50.00|
|12. Minimum charge for the drafting of motions (1.0):||$100.00|
|13. Minimum charge for the drafting of orders (1.0):||$100.00|
|14. Minimum charge for preparing for all court appearances (0.3):||$30.00|
|15. Minimum charge for court appearances [not including travel] (1.0):||$100.00|
|16. The charge for postage (inclusive of certified and overnight mail) is determined at prevailing rates.|
|17. The charge for mileage is at a rate of $1.00 per mile.|
|18. The charge for tolls is determined at prevailing rates.|
7A: The roundtrip cost of travel to the various courts gets more expensive the farther away the courthouse is.
I have a schedule of established roundtrip travel charges that I set forth in every retainer. These are the charges for the cost of roundtrip travel for a single court appearance in the respective courts:
|1. Saratoga County Courthouse|
|2. Schenectady County Courthouse|
|3. Rensselaer County Courthouse|
|4. Albany County Courthouse|
|5. Washington County Courthouse|
|6. Warren County Courthouse|
|7. Montgomery County Courthouse|
|8. Fulton County Courthouse|
|9. Schoharie County Courthouse|
|10. Greene County Courthouse|
|11. Columbia County Courthouse|
8A: It depends upon whether the divorce is contested or uncontested.
If the divorce is an uncontested divorce – meaning that BOTH the husband and the wife want the divorce – then the retainer is $2,500.00. If the divorce is contested – meaning that one spouse does NOT want the divorce OR there are contested issues concerning custody, equitable distribution, and marital property – then the retainer is $5,000.00.
Please note that this retainer is exclusive to my legal services only and does not include costs or fees of any kind for any other services, including but not limited to documents, experts, subpoenas, and witnesses. Any costs or fees would be the sole responsibility of the client.9Q: Do you handle appeals and, if so, how much do you charge?
9A: I charge a capped fee of $2,500.00 for all appeals dealing with family law, matrimonial law, and criminal law.
I have perfected enough appeals to know how difficult and time-consuming they can almost always be. However, like everything else in life, the more you practice doing something, the more proficient and efficient you become in doing it.
The $2,500.00 capped fee is extremely reasonable as many appeals cost at least $5,000.00 or more to perfect. And the $2,500.00 capped fee is even better than a $2,500.00 flat fee, insofar as the $2,500.00 is a ceiling for charges, beyond which the client does not pay any more money. Besides, if the appeal costs less than the $2,500.00 fee, the client is reimbursed for the remaining balance. You can’t find a better deal than that!
However, I am quite good at legal research and legal writing and I believe that I am able to perfect an appeal more efficiently than most.
Nevertheless, there can be significant costs and fees involved in an appeal, all of which are the sole responsibility of the client. The costs of purchasing the court transcripts can be quite expensive, especially if the appeal is from a multi-day trial entailing hundreds (or even thousands!) of pages of court transcripts.
Such costs include, but are not limited to:
|1. Notice of appeal [CPLR §8022(a)]:||$65.00|
|2. Filing of the record on appeal [CPLR §8022(b)]:||$315.00|
|3. Motion or cross-motion [CPLR §8022(b)]:||$45.00|
|4. Court transcripts:||Prices vary from $0.50 per page to $2.00 per page|
|5. Copying costs:||Per prevailing rates (about $0.10 per page)|
|6. Binding costs:||Per prevailing rates|
|7. Postage (inclusive of certified and overnight mail) is determined at prevailing rates:||Per prevailing rates|
|8. Travel time and mileage to the Appellate Division, in Albany, New York, IF oral argument is requested:||$200.00 minimum|
|9. Tolls:||Per prevailing rates|
|10. Oral argument:||$200.00 minimum|
|11. Parking:||$5.00 minimum|
|12. Filing an Appeal to the Court of Appeals (where there is no dissent):||$200.00 minimum|
I will also ensure that any appeal on which I am retained shall be perfected within ninety (90) days of receipt of all of the necessary court transcripts and court exhibits. However, the “90-day clock” does not start running until the day that I am in possession of all of the necessary court transcripts and court exhibits.
Also, please keep in mind that in some large appeals, the costs and fees involved in the appeal might actually cost the client more than the cost for my legal services in drafting the appeal!