This is from the consumer perspective, but I am also interested in hearing the lawyer perspective.

You meet with a lawyer about a probate vs. trust matter for a truly small estate (though I suppose this could apply to any matter). The meeting is under the lawyer's control. At the end of a 3 hour meeting an agreement is signed and a retainer paid.

You leave with a 4th generation copy of a 7-item checklist he ticked off during the meeting that is supposed to show what's already been done but isn't even ticked off correctly (such as the box for obtaining death certificates though he saw the one you brought to meeting).

Turns out to be a poor match, like a blind date gone seriously south. You're going to call about it but he calls first. S'ok. You both agree it's not going to work out. During the phone con he agrees that he would need to read the will and the trust to understand the situation (translation: he hadn't read a single one before the 3 hour meeting, nor did you expect him to).

He suggests payment for time and leave it at that. Seems reasonable.

Then you get a bill that includes time for two 1 minute voicemails (rounded up to 6 minutes each, of course), a half hour for an email exchange, the phone con about parting ways, and (ahem) preparation for the 3 hour meeting before you signed the agreement.

You're self-employed. You "get" that time is money. You expected to pay something.

But for time spent before you signed the agreement?

  • It'll probably be governed by terms within the agreement itself -- what do they say?
    – cnst
    Aug 14, 2017 at 21:39
  • It states "for all time worked on the case."
    – RJo
    Aug 15, 2017 at 5:24
  • In theory, you could also be billed for the value of any advice you obtained while in the three-hour meeting. Like anything else, however, you are free to request an "adjustment" to the bill to reflect your perception of the value received. The attorney would then have to balance a total or partial write-off with the risk of facing a disciplinary hearing about unethical conduct (whether or not that's what it was).
    – Upnorth
    Aug 15, 2017 at 21:03
  • Am going to kick this up to the boss. I.e., could be good news/bad news that the person is an employee attorney at a firm that did work for us several years ago. Am thinking it was a case of someone "punting" an engagement instead of admitting they did not know what they did not know. Will try to remember to come back here to report what happened.
    – RJo
    Aug 16, 2017 at 5:08
  • Update: The boss attorney agreed to a partially adjusted amount for time spent by the employee attorney before the agreement was signed. The net result was payment for less than billed, and (from a consumer perspective) significantly more than value received.
    – RJo
    Aug 29, 2017 at 3:58


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