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Lawyer not respecting retainer agreement and overbilling

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  • Lawyer not respecting retainer agreement and overbilling

    Firstly, if this is the wrong forum, I do apologize. It seems to be the most popular forum and the others just don't seem to be a better fit.

    Here's the quick story:

    - retained current attorney after firing the previous lawyer in July '09
    - paid a $3000 retainer
    - signed retainer agreement
    - verbally requested statements from the lawyer and her assistant on at least two occasions
    - finally told the lawyer in an email to do no more work until I get a statement (Jun '10)
    - two weeks later I get a statement for $5400 ($2400 more than the retainer I already paid)
    - when I challenged the bill with the assistant, I get told that the lawyer will settle for $1000
    - I tell the assistant to have the lawyer call me... never happens

    While without mentioning the lawyer stretching the hours or being charged $250/hour for having the assistant do my Form 13.1 (I have proof in an email that she did it), I feel I should not pay the $2400 that I "owe".

    In the retainer agreement, it states:

    I understand that I am to maintain a positive balance in this account, and from time to time uring the progress of the matter may be required to make further deposits.

    Interim accounts will be submitted at appropriate intervals during the progress of the matter, usually each month, and a final account on its completion.

    If there are insufficient funds in the retainer to satisfy any account, I undertake to pay the outstanding amount upon receipt of the account, and to refresh the retainer to secure payment of future accounts.

    Of course, there is more. But there are the three statements that support my position. I don't think I should pay her another dime and start self-representing (see my other thread).

    I was never informed that I was running a negative balance. My interpretation of the agreement is that the lawyer would refuse to work on my file once the retainer was (nearly) depleted.

    Further, I was never furnished with an "interim account" until I absolutely demanded it. I know I asked once shortly after I retained her and was told "her computer was infected by a virus and she had to restore backups). I also mentioned in at least one email that I wanted to keep this "as inexpensive as possible".

    I've decided to represent but I was to have all my ducks in line before I challenge the lawyer.

    If I am disputing the bill, can she refuse to give me my file?

    What are your opinions? Should I refuse to give her any further funds and wait for her to take me to small claims? Am I misinterpreting the contact?


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