The Two Most Often Questions Asked

When a prospective client first meets with an attorney about legal representation there are generally two questions that are, or should be asked – how long with this take and how much will it cost? Depending on the nature of the case or the matter being discussed the response may vary significantly. However, in an effort to erase the uncertainty that cause a client to be apprehensive about going forward, we are always prepared to provide answers.

The term litigation may be used to describe virtually every adversarial matter filed in the public record. It includes civil (for example, breach of contract, negligence, divorce, foreclosure, and bankruptcy matters) cases as well as criminal (for example, DUI, speeding, shoplifting, assault, and juvenile court) charges. Generally speaking, civil litigation cases require legal documents called pleadings to be prepared, filed and sent to opposing counsel or parties. Because the process of litigating civil cases is controlled by Rules of Civil Procedure that establish time periods for filing and responding to pleadings, as a general rule we can speculate that such matters can last between six and eighteen months with the more complicated cases or those involving numerous parties taking even longer. Criminal cases usually can be resolved much sooner in the court system within a few months unless a client is being prosecuted for a felony offense that could add several more months to the proceeding.

Many other legal services requested by clients take considerably less time. For example a client interested in estate planning may be surprised to learn that drafting an appropriate will or trust document will only take between a few days and several weeks. The same time estimate applies to creating corporate, limited liability companies or partnership entities as well as drafting contracts and deeds.

The second and probably more important question posed to a lawyer concerns the financial commitment that the client must approve in exchange for the legal services. Today more than ever prospective clients will want an attorney to predict what the matter being discussed will cost and to that end we attempt to develop flexible and creative pricing in addition to the standard hourly rate arrangement when appropriate. Flat fees can be offered for many services involving the preparation of documents and a hybrid fee arrangement (involving an initial retainer with contingency terms on the recovery) is a possible alternative to hourly pricing of legal services.