Can my attorney sue me if I don’t pay the final bill?
This article is by Nima Haddadi – a Los Angeles DUI Attorney. The cost of a legal battle can be devastating. Nowhere is this more true than in family courts, where the stakes and the emotions are both high. In some cases, clients may be tempted to simply not pay the final bill. After all, can your attorney sue you? Unfortunately for people who are saddled with a high price tag for legal representation, the answer is usually a resounding yes.
Thwre are several reasons a person may not wish to pay their bill – as well as several reasons that most should do so. The reasons for paying your bill are obvious. First, it is ethical to pay people as agreed for the services they worked hard to deliver. You do not work for free, and neither does your lawyer. Second, there is a good chance that you will need a lawyer again in life. Having an established and good relationship with your lawyer will come in handy. In addition, other lawyers may not want to take you as a client if you have a history of refusing to pay up. Last, attorneys are not a group that are often denied what is rightfully theirs without a fight. They are familiar with the court system and the legal remedies available to people who are not paid as promised.
However, there are a few situations where you can contest your final bill and end up with a much reduced number. First, you may not feel that the attorney delivered what they promised. Lawyers should be paid regardless of the outcome of the case, but you may feel that they failed to deliver the quality that was promised. As with all humans, some lawyers are more competent than others and a small minority fail to meet the minimum competence that the field demands. Second, you may suspect that they have padded their time and costs beyond what is ethical or even possible. It is okay to question this and to ask for a reduction if so. Most importantly, you should do this early in the process and not before the bill is overdue.
Thwre are ways for people to avoid paying too much for services without risking a lawsuit. The first option, as discussed before, is to communicate with the attorney about your concerns. This is best done in writing so you can show a paper trail of good faith effort if the lawyer does decide to sue you. The second option is fee dispute litigation, in which you take the first move in letting the courts decide on the appropriate payment.
It can be scary to go up against a lawyer in courts, but clients do so successfully on a regular basis if they have been wronged. There are a few things that you should keep in mind if you decide to do this. First, a contract cannot be used to justify unreasonable fees. You can ask around to see what is reasonable in your area in terms of billed hours for cases like yours and the charges for them. Second, while attorneys are not usually required to win, they are legally and ethically required to deliver on their promises and render expert quality services. In addition, they are not allowed to tack on bonuses and additional fees that were not discussed with you.
If you do not pay your attorney, they are limited in their ability to handle the matter. The law recognizes that they have an upper hand. They are not allowed in New York State to hire collections agencies. In addition, they may not use information they gained in representing you to come after you or strengthen their case. Their main options are to sue you or to use liens to collect what they believe is due. Ultimately, many of these disputes are handled in the courtroom.