We are excited to welcome you to Business Law Group! Now that you have have decided to have Business Law Group represent you, we want to share some important information that we feel will be helpful in your legal process with us.
We have thoughtfully put together this page with additional information on the process because we understand that going through a legal matter can be overwhelming and stressful, so we want to provide you with as much information as possible to help mitigate some of your questions.
Step One: Engagement Package
The start things off, you will receive an engagement package from our administrative staff. This package will include three items:
- Engagement Letter
- Explanation of Billing Policies and Fee Advance Policy
- Expectations of Clients and Firm
The engagement letter defines the legal relationship between our law firm and you as our client. The letter will include information on the terms, conditions and scope of the attorney/client relationship as well as the terms of compensation for the firm.
Our engagement letter will show proof of representation between you and your attorney. It will clearly define the scope and nature of legal services to be provided by our firm. The importance of this engagement letter is to provide you zero confusion about what legal services we will and will not provide to you during this process.
Explanation of Billing Policies and Fee Advance Policy:
In your engagement package, you will receive a detailed explanation of our billing policies and our policy on your fee advance. An overview of these policies is also included below. This form will include a section for you to sign and acknowledge.
Step Two: Fee Advance
In order to get started working on your behalf, we require payment of the fee advance for this matter as you discussed in your initial consultation. The amount of the fee advance required is dependent on the details of your matter and will be clearly provided to you.
Along with your engagement letter, you will also receive a copy of our explanation of fees and billing. On overview of these policies are also provided to you below.
Step Three: Access to Sharefile
As we move forward with your case, there will be times when we need you to share certain documents and materials with us that are pertinent to your matter. It is important to get these documents to us in a timely manner so we avoid any delays or missed deadlines.
We have a process in place that makes sharing your documents easy, safe and securely. We utilize Sharefile so you can upload and access all of your documents online.
Once you have signed all of the documents in your engagement package, you will be receiving an email from your paralegal that will include the following:
- A link to your personal Sharefile folder
- Instructions on how to access and download documents to your folder
Why and How We Bill on an Hourly Basis
We are selling our unique and individual time, as well as our collective experience, for the benefit of your project or legal matter. Although a number of different options have been tried over the years to place a value on legal services, it almost always comes back to a measure of time. That is our limiting factor.
From a practical standpoint, we divide each hour into 6-minute increments, each representing 1/10 of an hour. That is the smallest measurement of time we can sell for practical purposes. When we begin working on your project, we start a computer-based timer that tracks the actual time spent on your project, and it records our time in our billing program in 1/10 of an hour increments. From 1 second to 5 minutes and 59 seconds is the first 0.1 hour. When the actual time spent on your project crosses into the next 6-minute increment, the billing measurement increases to the next 1/10 of an hour.
For example: If we work 2 minutes and 10 seconds on your matter, we will bill you for 0.1 hours. If we work for 5 minutes and 50 seconds, we still only bill you for 0.1 hours. If we work for 6 minutes and 10 seconds on your matter, we bill you for 0.2 hours.
Our Hourly Rates
Our hourly rates are determined by the amount of education and experience each professional holds, as well as the complexity and requirements of the project at hand. We regularly review our billing policies and practices to ensure that we are providing the best service for a fair price.
Our initial hourly rates are set forth in our engagement letter. We reserve the right to adjust our hourly rates from time to time as provided in our engagement letter.
If the timeliness, pendency, or nature of your project or matter requires us to work outside of normal working hours, for reasons outside of our control, we reserve the right to bill you in an amount equal to one and a half times our normal hourly rates.
Flat Fee Services
Flat fees are determined based on our experience with similar types of projects, the amount of work generally involved, and the administrative time required to maintain our database of forms. If your project falls within the scope of work for which a flat fee is offered, we are happy to discuss a flat fee option with you. If we each agree that a flat fee is appropriate for your case or project, we will agree to perform your legal services for that flat fee, and that agreement, and the specific flat fee for your project, will be set forth in our engagement letter.
If we do not agree to a flat fee at the beginning of your matter, we will bill you at our normal hourly rates.
What is Billable?
Broadly speaking, unless we have a clear agreement to the contrary, any time that we spend on your matter that adds value is billable. This includes all time spent on legal or factual research; drafting or reviewing documents; analyzing laws, positions or options; reviewing, forwarding, or responding to emails and correspondence; drafting letters or emails; time spent in conferences and meetings; time spent on the telephone; and providing legal advice, whether in person or by telephone. It could also include administrative work that adds value to your matter, such as reviewing and scanning documents into your file, indexing the documents in your file, completing and filing forms, and preparing letters and correspondence for mailing. It would not include administrative work that does not add value, such as time spent preparing billing statements and opening, maintaining, and closing client files.
The Quick Call Allowance
If a client in good standing calls with a quick legal question that we can answer over the phone in 12 minutes or less (0.2 hours), and the answer does not require us to do any other work to answer the question or resolve the matter (i.e., send an email, do any research, provide a form, review documents in a file, or call someone else), then we will note the time on the invoice, but write the time off as “no-charge”. In other words, we give you an allowance for that time. If we have to do other work in connection with the phone call, then we have to bill for the time spent on the matter, including the original phone call.
Please note, this quick call allowance does not simply mean that the first 0.2 hours of time spent on your project or legal matter is not billable. It only applies to questions, issues, or projects that we can fully resolve with a “quick call.” The purpose is to allow you to seek quick guidance before making a decision or taking action, with the ability to determine whether legal assistance is, or will be, needed. Through this allowance, we are trying to balance the value of our time, with our desire to remain accessible to our good clients. Below are some examples.
- If you call to discuss the termination of an employee and we can resolve your questions over the phone in 12 minutes or less, we will not bill you for that time.
- If you call for legal advice on a tax matter and it takes 20 minutes to resolve over the phone, we will bill you for the entire time spent on the phone call.
- If you call to discuss an issue and we have to research a law in order to answer your question, we will bill you for the time we spend on the initial phone call and all time researching the issue and providing the answer.
- If you call with a quick question on a form and we can resolve the matter in 12 minutes but you are not current on your billing with our office or are not in compliance with our fee advance policy, then the “quick call” allowance does not apply, and we will bill you for the time spent on the call.
Retainers and the Fee Advance
There is an important distinction between a retainer and a fee advance. A retainer is a fee paid to have access to an attorney over a period of time. A retainer is fully earned when delivered. The attorney gets to place that retainer in his or her pocket, and the client then has the privilege of being able to contact that attorney during the specified period for legal work. Our office generally does not work on a retainer basis.
A fee advance is an amount that is delivered to the attorney to cover legal fees and expenses that will occur at a later date. A fee advance is not earned when it is delivered. Rather, those funds belong to the client and are given to the attorney to hold in trust. We deposit those funds on your behalf into a special COLTAF Trust Account, which is highly regulated by the bar association. The trust account is not an interest-bearing account.
The fee advance is a vital part of our practice. It is how we ensure that we are paid for our services. As we perform legal services, or advance fees or expenses on behalf of a client, we are authorized to bill those services, fees, and expenses against the amount of the fee advance held in trust. Because we are a small business, like many of our clients, we need this mechanism to ensure that our firm’s bills, expenses, and payroll obligations are timely met. We account for these fund transfers on your monthly invoice, so you can always track what funds you have in trust and how they have been used.
Fee Advance Policy
Initial Fee Advance for New Clients and New Matters
It is the policy of this firm to collect an initial fee advance from all new clients, as well as for new matters or cases that arise for existing clients. Generally, the initial fee advance required is based on the type and complexity of legal work that will be required.
- For business and transactional matters, the initial fee advance will generally be between $3,000 and $5,000.
- For litigation matters, the initial fee advance will generally be at least $5,000 for cases pending in County Court and $10,000 for matters pending in District Court.
We reserve the right to increase, or waive, the amount of the initial fee advance on a case-by-case basis as determined us, in our sole discretion.
Replenishment of Fee Advance on Active Matters
In addition to the initial fee advance, we will require you to replenish the amount of your fee advance as the project continues, and we bill against those amounts. As with the initial advance, the replenishment obligation is based on the type and complexity of legal work that remains or is likely to arise.
- For transactional matters, the replenishment obligation will generally be between $2,000 and $5,000.
- For litigation matters, the replenishment obligation will be between $2,000 and $5,000, and will increase as important deadlines or trial dates approach.
We reserve the right to increase, modify, or waive the amount of any replenishment amount on a case-by-case basis as determined by us, in our sole discretion.
No Active Matters
If you do not have any active matters pending but wish to have our firm available to represent you immediately on matters as they arise, we will require you to maintain a fee advance of $500 in our trust account. This will allow us to promptly become involved in new matters, without delay. After we have begun work on your matter, if we estimate that the work will exceed the $500 balance of your fee advance, you will be required to deposit additional funds into our trust account in an amount to be determined based upon the complexity of the matter and the time in which it must be completed.
If you do not have any active matters pending, you do not have to maintain a fee advance in our trust account to call upon our services. We would still be happy to assist you. However, as new matters arise, you would be required to provide an appropriate fee advance before we are able to begin performing any legal work on your behalf. Under this option, we would not be able to begin work on your project immediately. Rather, it may take a day or two for you to provide the necessary fee advance.