How Much Will it Cost?
During the Intake Interview, potential clients very frequently ask, “How much does a case like mine cost?” This is one of the most common questions people have when seeking legal services in family law cases, we have found. It’s not limited to people with limited financial resources, either. Even clients with substantial financial assets and holdings are usually very concerned about litigation costs.
Our team is generally not allowed to quote prices for any type of case during the Initial Interview call. Through much experience, we have determined that there is no way to provide even generally accurate price quotes for cases after brief discussions on the telephone. More detail is needed to provide even remotely accurate estimates for fees and expenses. That is one reason we have a Consultation Meeting with each potential client before entering into an Attorney-Client Employment Agreement.
So, “How much does a case like mine cost?” Our answer is, “It depends on the facts of the case.”
Why we can’t Quote Prices Based Solely on the Case Type
More work usually means more fees and costs. There is no limit to the number of unpredictable things that could affect the amount of work needed to complete a family law case.
Sometimes the opposing party is very, very difficult to work with. Sometimes the opposing attorney is very, very difficult to work with. Sometimes witnesses are difficult to find. Parties can be difficult to serve with court papers. In some cases, there are thousands upon thousands of documents to review and examine to determine parties’ assets and liabilities. The complex emotional issues that arise in family law cases make things difficult to say the least. All of these complexities and complications can lead to an increase in the amount of work a legal team must perform to get the job done.
In most Mississippi court districts, the judges’ dockets are overcrowded, which means longer waiting, which drags cases out, which creates longer time periods when life causes changes. Changes mean more work.
Sometimes circumstances change during the course of a trial, and the parties don’t finish in the time allotted, which means they have to go back to court to finish the trial at a later time. We once had a case that was supposed to take one day in court; we ended up spending four days in court. Three extra days of trial led to additional fees and expenses.
Sometimes clients’ cases present new legal issues that the law doesn’t provide for, and the courts (and possibly the attorneys) haven’t seen the precise issue before. The novelty of a case can mean more research, more preparation, and more unpredictability.
The list could literally go on and on.
We try to estimate the cost of a case based on our experience in similar cases, considering the facts of each case. However, it is frequently is impossible to predict the total cost of a case, even after a Consultation Meeting, because of the issues and people involved. Therefore, even if we hazard a guess as to what the ultimate cost of a case will be, it is frequently a very rough estimate.
In family law cases, there are typically two types of pricing options, retainer arrangements and flat-fee arrangements.
Retainer-based arrangements consist of a client depositing money in a firm’s account, and the firm billing against those sums at hourly rates for each billing professional. A statement is sent to the client each month, detailing the time spent on the case and the amount charged for each activity. Our firm tends to use mostly retainer-based arrangements. At our firm, the amount of a retainer can vary from $3,000 to $10,000 or more, depending on the complexity of the case and the unpredictable factors discussed previously on this page. In most retainer arrangements, when the initial deposit starts to run low, our firm will ask the client to deposit more funds, to avoid a debtor-creditor relationship between our client and our firm.
- Flat-Fee Arrangements
Although some law firms use only flat fees, we have found that, in our experience, only a limited number of family law cases actually lend themselves to flat fees. Flat fees are sometimes proposed as pricing options with our firm, but they are not our normal financial arrangement.
Contingency Fees not Allowed in most Family Law Cases
Some civil cases are handled with contingency fees. Essentially, that means the client has no financial obligation to the attorney unless the case is won in court or the case is settled out of court. Mississippi rules generally prohibit contingency fees in family law cases, such as divorces.