In New York, a lawyer should not charge excessive fees. American Bar Association and New York Bar Association have rules and regulations against excessive attorneys’ fees, and so do New York Attorney Ethics Rules.
The Factors that Determine Reasonable Attorneys’ Fees
When determining whether legal fees in an estate may be considered excessive, here are some factors that should be considered:
• Amount of the fee in relation to the type of services rendered
• Type of fee arrangement, flat fee, contingency, hourly
• The time involved, hours, etc.
• Type of case and any special skills required to handle the case
• Future business relationships between the client and the lawyer
• Whether the client is informed in writing and consents to the arrangements
• The outcome and results of the case
Attorneys are required to explain the basis for their fee charge and expenses and communicate the information to the client so that the client clearly understands the fee arrangement. Typically, the attorney and client enter into a fee arrangement prior to the attorney rendering any services on behalf of the client. Some attorneys may ask for an upfront retainer agreement as well. Changes to fee arrangements should be discussed and communicated to clients immediately.
Finding a New York Estate Attorney and Initial Consultation
Getting a referral from a friend, family member or someone you trust is a good way to find an estate attorney that you may want to work with, you can also find attorney reviews and descriptions on the internet. Finding an attorney that you trust and that you are comfortable working with and who is knowledgeable with a proven record of handling cases similar to yours are factors to consider when making a final choice.
Before hiring an attorney, you should inquire at the initial consultation about the attorney’s fee arrangements. You can read our post about how New York estate attorneys set their fees. Make sure you ask the attorney questions before you sign any fee arrangement agreement so you clearly understand what services will be performed and how the fees are billed. You may also want to inquire if the attorney uses junior associate attorneys, paralegals, law clerks or legal secretaries to prepare work and a breakdown on their fee charges. Asking questions helps to prevent misunderstandings or surprises later on.
Estate Lawyer Dispute Resolution
In the event a fee dispute does occur between a client and a New York City Estate lawyer, the client may request arbitration or mediation as an alternative dispute resolution method through the New York State Unified Court System’s Attorney-Client Fee Dispute Resolution Program by calling 877-FEES-137 (877-333-7137) or visiting the court’s website. The court also has the jurisdiction to approve attorney’s fees and settle fee arrangement disputes.
If you wish to speak to a New York estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Goodwin at (212) 233-1233.