What are reasonable attorney’s fees?
The first concern that any client has is “how much is this going to cost me?” When you hire a lawyer, you may be hit with sticker shock and cannot understand how one lawyer may charge on one end of the spectrum and another lawyer charges on the other end for what appears to be the same work. Currently in Nevada, the hourly rates for lawyers range from approximately $250 to approximately $600 per hour. If you view yourself as a consumer, how can you confidently compare hourly rates?
The Nevada Supreme Court has tackled this precise question in guiding judges in determining if fees are “reasonable.” The Nevada Supreme Court has clearly set forth in Brunzell v. Golden Gate Nat. Bank, four factors in determining if an attorney has provided reasonable value such that his/her fees are deemed appropriate. Those factors are: (1) the qualities of the advocate; (2) the character of the work to be done; (3) the work actually performed by the lawyer and (4) the result.
When considering hiring a lawyer or when you are reviewing his or her invoices, the four factors determined by the Nevada Supreme Court can be helpful. It is important for you to note that the result is only one factor, and indeed, is the last factor. This is because a lawyer’s result can be impacted by any number of known or unknown catalysts. Based on that, let’s review the other three factors.
The qualities of the advocate. The questions you should address here include:
- How long has your lawyer been practicing law?
- Has your lawyer been disciplined by the bar or any court?
- What designations, if any, has your lawyer received from objective and respected organizations such as Martindale Hubble?
The character of the work to be done. The questions you should bring up here include:
- Has your lawyer explained all the options to you?
- Has your lawyer explained all the risks of action and/or inaction to you?
- Do you feel your lawyer has heard and addressed all your concerns?
- Do you know if your lawyer is actually doing the work and not delegating it to a less experienced lawyer or paralegal?
The work actually performed. This is not the “result.” The inquiry here is:
- Has your lawyer executed the strategy he or she laid out for you?
- Has s/he communicated with you throughout the process?
- Have you seen evidence of the work outlined in your bills?
At all times you should remember that the lawyer works for you. When hiring a business attorney, it is reasonable for you to ask whether the lawyer has had his or her fees approved by a Court. That can give you a greater degree of confidence over your lawyer’s bills. Also, if you feel it makes sense for you and your business, talk to your lawyer about alternative billing methods. These methods can include task billing, billing on a flat fee, or monthly retainers.
Should you ever have questions about billing or any other legal matters, please contact Gordon Law.