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Divorce & Family Law This forum is for discussing any of the legal issues involved in your divorce.

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Old 08-17-2011, 09:15 PM
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Default Lawyer accountability for retainer

Hi there - quick question...

I gave my lawyer $3000 as a retainer. 1 month later, I got an invoice accounting for $1100 of it (for consultations, emails and a somewhat lengthy meeting with my ex's lawyer), and it said that my balance was now $0.

(!)

So I contacted my lawyer who said that yes, my retainer was all used up and that before she would do any more work for me, she needed me to re-up. I told her that I had only received an invoice for $1100, and asked for her to please account for the rest. That was over a month ago and I have not heard from her, and she has stopped answering my emails.

What do I do???
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Old 08-17-2011, 10:09 PM
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My lawyer charges 275 / hour, Looks like 3000 will last about 10 hours (with HST). This looks like about 3 meetings worth of time.
Suggest calling again and asking to see your file's WIP (work in progress) account listings. They keep track of this stuff. It is the summer so the accounting may be lax.
The chilling thing is the lack of control once they (lawyers) start talking amongst themselves. These conversations cost you and your STBX 500 / hour (250 each). PS: 3k is peanuts in the divorce game. Once court starts, imagine paying 2000 / day - each. Consultations, writeups, court time...
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Old 08-17-2011, 10:43 PM
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Yes, I get that, but we have hardly done anything yet. I am more concerned about the fact that 1900 has just disappeared and she is now not responding at all! Losing faith in my lawyer this early in the game is troubling...
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Old 08-17-2011, 11:04 PM
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Default retainer

Lotus, the sad reality is that your lawyer does not have time for you as
the 3000.00 is all used up. You should be issued an invoice however. As
you go through this process you will continue to be shocked at how many
and often you need to throw in another 1500 to keep the lawyer interested
in your matter. I remember coming home from work and actually beginning
to expect another letter from the "law office"

If you have a bad feeling, easier to change now than later, best of luck

Raven
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Old 08-17-2011, 11:12 PM
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I think I have to change now, as my faith in her is shot - not because she used the money, but because she hasn't accounted for it at all. I guess I am wondering what I do if she just refuses...
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Old 08-17-2011, 11:28 PM
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Default changing lawyers early on

well, the two lawyers i needed in ONT and B.C had the concideration to
issue bills for accountability. I know with the money issues in addition to
the seperation it can be difficult, from what you have said I would go with
"my gut" and release. thats just me.

There is the possibility that your lawyer may be on vacation.

Raven
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Old 08-18-2011, 07:52 AM
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In an ongoing contested divorce process, you can expect there to be a constant "drain" of money having to be put towards your lawyer's account on a monthly, even weekly basis, depending on how much is going on in the case at any given point in time.

However, you should be able to feel confident that every cent of your money is being put towards good use, that every cent has been accounted for, and that you are seeing results from the actions of your lawyer.

Most lawyers will provide regular invoices (typically monthly) an a fairly detailed/itemized listing of how you were billed for your time. That said, unfortunately there are also more than a few lawyers who are "sloppy" with their accounting. For whatever reason, to me it's very unprofessional and UNETHICAL. Some lawyers delay billing and invoicing their clients for up to 2-3 months AFTER a charge/time is incurred on the client's behalf, and that can get very confusing for a client for a client to try to account for what the money has gone towards when the accounting is not up to date. For example, you get an invoice for 2 months ago saying X amount has been used so theoratically there should be X amount left in the balance, but then the lawyer tells you that your account is 0 NOW ... how is the client supposed to know that the money has been depleted when there's been no accounting for it? Don't know the particulars of your situation but it may be what's happening in your case. There really isn't much you can do if you have asked for clarification in writing and your lawyer doesn't step up to the plate, especially if the expectation of how you would like to see billing done hasn't been established from the get go. You either trust your lawyer, or you don't.

If, at this early on in time, you are feeling confused at the way your lawyer bills for her time AND she is not being responsive to your requests for an itemized/more detailed listing, then in my opinion it's not a good sign and i would rather switch earlier rather than later to a lawyer that i CAN have that level of comfort with. As a client you should be able to specify/request how you want to see an accounting of the time billed, and have up to date, current monthly/regular invoices to help you keep track of your finances ... a good lawyer is very cognizant of this and is not lax where this is concerned.

That said, when speaking with a (new) lawyer about the particulars of their retainer agreement and before retaining them, always make sure you cover a discussion about their billing practices and how you expect to see invoices presented! Being on the same page where $$$ is concerned will save you a lot of grief in the long run as you work with your lawyer ... there's enough nonsense to deal with in a contested divorce as it is.

Someone i know was in a similar issue with being confused by how the invoice from the lawyer was presented, and why there appeared to be double charges etc., on the "monthly" bill. Repeated requests for clarification, explanation of the charges and more up to date accounting from the lawyer (who coincidentally advertises on this site) were ignored or waved away. 3 months and 15K later the case was languishing with pointless letters back and forth. Expensive lesson learned, the lawyer was fired and a new one retained, and in a matter of a month the new lawyer had managed to get a settlement agreement on the table AND there were no confusion about how money was used towards what, no "attitude" from the lawyer about clarifying charges and providing up to date, detailed billing.
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Old 08-18-2011, 08:37 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exquizique View Post
Someone i know was in a similar issue with being confused by how the invoice from the lawyer was presented, and why there appeared to be double charges etc., on the "monthly" bill. Repeated requests for clarification, explanation of the charges and more up to date accounting from the lawyer (who coincidentally advertises on this site) were ignored or waved away. 3 months and 15K later the case was languishing with pointless letters back and forth. Expensive lesson learned, the lawyer was fired and a new one retained, and in a matter of a month the new lawyer had managed to get a settlement agreement on the table AND there were no confusion about how money was used towards what, no "attitude" from the lawyer about clarifying charges and providing up to date, detailed billing.
Although I had a similar experience, a lot of the difference was me. My first experience I had no knowledge of lawyers or the process, with my second lawyer I had my questions ready and had firm expectations and I was much more assertive.

And while I don't feel my first lawyer was effective, there was a lot of preliminary work completed (financials) and the intitial exchange of letters and aggressive offers I think will happen no matter what.

So I got quick, effective results from a responsive lawyer because the preliminaries were done and I was assertive and in control. My second lawyer I still feel was a better fit over all, but if I'd walked into my first lawyer's office knowing what I know now, my case would have been handled much more effectively.
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Old 08-18-2011, 08:50 AM
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If you call the LSUC you can try and have the account assessed to see if there are any over charges and discrepancies.

Your Lawyer's Bill - Too High? | The Law Society of Upper Canada
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Old 08-18-2011, 08:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mess View Post
Although I had a similar experience, a lot of the difference was me. My first experience I had no knowledge of lawyers or the process, with my second lawyer I had my questions ready and had firm expectations and I was much more assertive.

And while I don't feel my first lawyer was effective, there was a lot of preliminary work completed (financials) and the intitial exchange of letters and aggressive offers I think will happen no matter what.

So I got quick, effective results from a responsive lawyer because the preliminaries were done and I was assertive and in control. My second lawyer I still feel was a better fit over all, but if I'd walked into my first lawyer's office knowing what I know now, my case would have been handled much more effectively.
Oh i totally agree! This was definitely a major/main factor in the example i quoted. That's why it was an expensive, but necessary, lesson learnt the hard way.

Still, in my opinion, it speaks volumes when a lawyer is not amenable to clarifying or explaining all aspects of their professional conduct. While most lawyers will definitely work better with clients who clearly know what they want and have at least a rudimentary understanding of the process and steps involved, if a lawyer is unresponsive from the get go and discounts the client's concerns and reasonable requests, it's going to be like milking blood from a stone. You can be assertive and firm about wanting things done a certain way or setting thresholds and boundaries for how far to push certain issues, but it's hard to be firm with wanting someone to be responsive and detail oriented when they simply are not or are unwilling to be, from my limited experience.
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