If you have identified the specific legal billing issues you object to and have determined that you have adequate grounds for objecting, the next step is to communicate directly with your lawyer. In communicating with your lawyer on legal billing disputes, it is important that all communications be in writing. If communications are by phone or in person, they should be followed by a written communication (e-mail or letter) that memorializes the conversation.
One important thing in communicating your objections to your lawyer is to not delay. And especially do not ignore demand letters your lawyer may send seeking payment by thinking that he cannot collect on his bills to you because they were in error in some respects. I have had people come to me to help with legal bill disputes after their lawyers had not only filed a suit for collection, but had received a judgment. Needless to say these people were not at all in a good bargaining position.
One important thing to know about communications with a lawyer. All lawyers have an ethical duty to adequately communicate with clients about disputed legal fees. See RPC 1.4 Communication. So if your lawyer refuses to communicate with you promptly to discuss your objections, you may have grounds for filing a disciplinary complaint against the lawyer just as you would have grounds to do if the lawyer refused to communicate with you on any other aspect of your case.
But before considering to file a disciplinary complaint that may not actually resolve the legal bill dispute, consider another approach. Consider trying to bring the billing dispute to the attention of the lawyer’s partners or the law firm’s managing partner if the firm is large enough to have a managing partner.
The reason to bring the managing partner or possibly other partners into the legal billing dispute is because ethically and legally, other partners in a law firm can be held liable for legal bill overbilling or for the fraudulent conduct of one of their partners. See FDIC v. Minahat, 907 F.2d 546 (5th Cir. 1990). Thus, they would have a vested interest in seeing that the billing dispute with you is satisfactorily addressed. As with your communications with your lawyer, your communications with the managing partner or other partners in the firm on legal fee disputes need to be in writing.
Need to know whether you have adequate grounds to dispute a lawyer’s bills? That’s what we’re here for! Determining whether adequate grounds exist to dispute a lawyer’s legal bills starts with a preliminary evaluation of your legal bills. To request a FREE legal bill evaluation, go the Request an Evaluation page and follow the instructions.