Many prospective clients hiring an attorney for the first time do not understand how legal fees are paid, retained, earned, returned, and refunded. Most clients hire the Law Office of Kelly Peterson, through a retainer fee agreement or by court order. This means that monies are paid to the law office in advance of service. The amount paid in advance is dependent upon the service that is going to be rendered and the circumstances the client is presently facing. Nothing in this policy statement supplants, modifies, waives, or changes the terms of a fee agreement or court order. The fees paid in advance are not earned in advance. Rather, they are retained in a client trust account. While in the client trust account they remain the client’s money, to be withdrawn upon request and pursuant to the fee agreement. In a fee agreement, the law office, earns fees upon working on a client’s matter. These fees accrue at different rates depending on who is performing the service – an attorney, legal assistant, associate attorney, or a paralegal – or for costs that accrue in servicing the client (e.g. filing fees, research fees, mileage, etc.). Every month, the office will send an invoice of its fees and costs to the client. The law office will then debit monies from the client’s trust account to pay the monthly charges.
If the client’s matter is completed and there are outstanding fees and costs and no monies in the client’s trust account, the client may receive a final invoice of final fees and costs. Alternatively, if the client’s matter is completed and all outstanding fees and costs are paid, and monies still remain in the client’s trust account, those monies are considered unearned fees. In the event of case completion, the remaining unearned fees will be returned. Unearned fees, if they were paid by credit or debit card, may be subject to a finance charge, equal to or less than the credit card or debit card finance charge incurred by the law office to process payment(s) into the trust account.
Refunds are separate from the normal, above process of paying, retaining, earning, and returning legal fees. Rather, refunds are typically the result of an after-the-fact fee dispute or accounting error. The law office processes all written requests for refunds. We will review the client’s file when processing the request. Within sixty (60) days, our firm will either deny the request, requesting more information, or grant the request. The decision as to the response remains completely within the discretion of the law office. Refunds for payments made to the law office, if they were paid by credit or debit card, may be subject to a finance charge, equal to or less than the credit card or debit card finance charge incurred by the law office to process payment(s) to the law office.
That said, we wish to be as transparent as possible, and encourage clients to ask questions or express concerns immediately. We try to address those concerns just as soon as we are aware of them.