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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    46

    Default Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    My question relates to legal practice in the state of: Florida

    I contracted a local attorney in the hopes of negotiating down a debt with a lender who holds a lien against a foreclosed property I purchased through the county's auction system. Said attorney issued the regular disclaimer during our call as to how he could not guarantee any results but did mention that in all the cases he had handled for his clients so far he was not once unable to negotiate down a debt.

    Following payment of a $3500 flat fee to negotiate said debt it took about 3 weeks for the attorney's office to get in touch with the lenders attorney. I mentioned the amount of the debt I was hoping he could negotiate down and I suppose he carried that number to the lender's attorneys. There were no updates issued on the development of his negotiations with the lender unless I asked for them about every 2 weeks for the next 4 months or so. I lined up a buyer for the property and informed the attorney accordingly requesting that any type of reduction in the outstanding debt would be of help at this point. He acknowledged my message but did not write anything further. I have not heard from the attorney again.

    Although I fully understand that no grantees were made on potential reductions of the debt by the attorney's attempts, I do feel as if the effort put into this was lackluster at best. Am I simply supposed to learn a lesson from this and consider it normal for attorneys in this type of transactions to perform this way? Did I do something wrong? or was I simply expecting too much as far as communication?

    The attorney consultation and fee contract states the following:

    II. ATTORNEY'S FEE
    2.01 In consideration of services rendered and to be rendered by the Attorney, Client
    agrees to pay for the Attorney's time at the following hourly rates:
    $3500.00 nonrefundable, flat Attorneys fee, earned upon
    receipt, which shall be due upon execution.
    Initial:___
    The attorney's fees do not include postage, copy and certified copy expenses, delivery
    charges, and any other out-of-pocket costs. These costs will be treated as additional expenses and
    will be included in our bill.
    You agree to pay those reasonable expenses. If payments are not made promptly to us as
    requested, we reserve the right to immediately withdraw from representing you in any and all matters
    that the law firm is handling. You agree to the withdrawal.
    However, if Client's claim is governed by a statute or law which sets the Attorney's fees, and the law
    precludes any other fee arrangement other than the amount set by law, then the amount payable to the
    Attorney shall be limited to the maximum allowed by law.

    2.02 $3500.00 nonrefundable, flat Attorneys fee, earned upon receipt, which shall be due
    upon execution.

    2.03 At the time of each billing, the amount of legal services and expenses billed by the
    Attorney shall be disbursed from the Attorney's Trust Account to the Attorney's Operating Account.


    a. Each billing will reflect the legal services rendered and the deposit necessary
    to cover the estimated legal services and expenses for the next billing period.
    b. Client agrees to make such additional deposits for expenses as are required by
    the Attorney within ten (10) days from the statement's date.
    c. Unpaid fees and expenses, if not paid within ten (10) days from the
    statement's date, shall bear interest at the rate of 18 percent per annum until paid.
    d. All sums due and to become due are payable at the Attorney's office in
    Broward County, FLORIDA.


    2.03 implies there would be billings but I never received any sort or bills or time allocations for their efforts.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2016
    Posts
    3,984

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    2.03 is for additional amounts over and above the $3500.

    2.02 shows the $3500 was earned upon receipt.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    6,888

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    Quote Quoting Victory VI
    View Post
    My question relates to legal practice in the state of: Florida

    I contracted a local attorney in the hopes of negotiating down a debt with a lender who holds a lien against a foreclosed property I purchased through the county's auction system. Said attorney issued the regular disclaimer during our call as to how he could not guarantee any results but did mention that in all the cases he had handled for his clients so far he was not once unable to negotiate down a debt.

    Following payment of a $3500 flat fee to negotiate said debt it took about 3 weeks for the attorney's office to get in touch with the lenders attorney. I mentioned the amount of the debt I was hoping he could negotiate down and I suppose he carried that number to the lender's attorneys. There were no updates issued on the development of his negotiations with the lender unless I asked for them about every 2 weeks for the next 4 months or so. I lined up a buyer for the property and informed the attorney accordingly requesting that any type of reduction in the outstanding debt would be of help at this point. He acknowledged my message but did not write anything further. I have not heard from the attorney again.

    Although I fully understand that no grantees were made on potential reductions of the debt by the attorney's attempts, I do feel as if the effort put into this was lackluster at best. Am I simply supposed to learn a lesson from this and consider it normal for attorneys in this type of transactions to perform this way? Did I do something wrong? or was I simply expecting too much as far as communication?

    The attorney consultation and fee contract states the following:

    II. ATTORNEY'S FEE
    2.01 In consideration of services rendered and to be rendered by the Attorney, Client
    agrees to pay for the Attorney's time at the following hourly rates:
    $3500.00 nonrefundable, flat Attorneys fee, earned upon
    receipt, which shall be due upon execution.
    Initial:___
    The attorney's fees do not include postage, copy and certified copy expenses, delivery
    charges, and any other out-of-pocket costs. These costs will be treated as additional expenses and
    will be included in our bill.
    You agree to pay those reasonable expenses. If payments are not made promptly to us as
    requested, we reserve the right to immediately withdraw from representing you in any and all matters
    that the law firm is handling. You agree to the withdrawal.
    However, if Client's claim is governed by a statute or law which sets the Attorney's fees, and the law
    precludes any other fee arrangement other than the amount set by law, then the amount payable to the
    Attorney shall be limited to the maximum allowed by law.

    2.02 $3500.00 nonrefundable, flat Attorneys fee, earned upon receipt, which shall be due
    upon execution.

    2.03 At the time of each billing, the amount of legal services and expenses billed by the
    Attorney shall be disbursed from the Attorney's Trust Account to the Attorney's Operating Account.


    a. Each billing will reflect the legal services rendered and the deposit necessary
    to cover the estimated legal services and expenses for the next billing period.
    b. Client agrees to make such additional deposits for expenses as are required by
    the Attorney within ten (10) days from the statement's date.
    c. Unpaid fees and expenses, if not paid within ten (10) days from the
    statement's date, shall bear interest at the rate of 18 percent per annum until paid.
    d. All sums due and to become due are payable at the Attorney's office in
    Broward County, FLORIDA.


    2.03 implies there would be billings but I never received any sort or bills or time allocations for their efforts.
    So what is your issue? You haven't received any additional bills from the attorney for their out-of-pocket expenses. The $3,500 you paid covers their time, phone calls, and in-house support. Call the attorney as much as you want and keep asking for a progress report as you have a buyer. He can't charge you for your calls. You call and ask what he has done.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    17,923

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    Although I fully understand that no grantees were made on potential reductions of the debt by the attorney's attempts, I do feel as if the effort put into this was lackluster at best. Am I simply supposed to learn a lesson from this and consider it normal for attorneys in this type of transactions to perform this way? Did I do something wrong? or was I simply expecting too much as far as communication?
    The guy's a shyster. The worst of the worst. That contract allows the lawyer to rake in money hand over fist and do nothing.

    I suggest you file an ethics complaint and a fee dispute with the Florida Bar:

    https://www.floridabar.org/public/acap/

    No guarantees but it might bring some heat down on him. At least it will be on record for others to see if they have sense enough to check out a lawyer before hiring him. Did you?

    By the way, if you had $3500 cash you could have made your own offer to your creditor. I have no idea why people hire people to do that for them. Seems like a waste of money to me.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    46

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    Hiring the attorney was not my first move.
    I personally contacted the lender's attorney and received a payoff quote. I tried to negotiate the debt with them but they said I needed to contact the lender directly.
    I contacted the lender and they were completely incompetent. The loan is obviously in the name of the owner who let the property go into foreclosure so they said they could only talk about the loan with the person the loan was made out to regardless of whether my name was on the certificate of title issued by the county.

    Now, I am not sure if he is a complete shister, but I do get the feeling this was easy money for him. I think I'll give bar association complaint a shot.

    Thanks.


    Oh and by the way he does not accept my calls when I call. Assistant always says he is busy. It is also the assistant who always communicates with me via email with him in copy.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    6,888

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    Do let the lawyer know that you intend to file an ethics complaint if he doesn't toe the line before you file it.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Posts
    17,923

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    Quote Quoting Victory VI
    View Post

    I contacted the lender and they were completely incompetent. The loan is obviously in the name of the owner who let the property go into foreclosure so they said they could only talk about the loan with the person the loan was made out to regardless of whether my name was on the certificate of title issued by the county.
    Nothing incompetent about the lender. The lender knows exactly what they are doing and holds all the cards. The lender doesn't have to give you the time of day since it's not your loan. The property ownership doesn't matter. The lender can hold out forever until the full amount of the lien is paid. Which is probably why your attorney had no success even if he did try to negotiate.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    38,867

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    Hopefully you didnít pay more for the property than you can realize from a sale minus the debt involved. You sound like you do this sort of thing regularly. As such you should be aware what your risk was going into this.

    hopefully there was more involved in your contract with the attorney. Regardless what was promised regarding success, the attorney is obligated to perform as the contract specified. If he has done nothing to further your position then he has failed to perform as your contract would imply and as such, regardless what was stated in the contract, he would not have a right to retain the fee payment. Of course, unless the contract required any specific actions, any earnest attempt to negotiate would fulfill the attorneys obligations under his contract.

    i agree with jack regarding the competence of the lender. They are not obligated to work with you and if the debt underlying the lien must be repaid if the property is sold, it would appear they are in a very good position to simply wait until you decide you arenít going to hold the property any longer and sell it. Since it appears this is an investment property, I would guess that will be a quite short wait for the creditor.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2016
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    46

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    Below the full contract.
    Besides Adjusterjack's take on it, is the contract by general standards what one could call unfair toward a client, or is the language in it standard for this type of transaction? In other words, is an ethics complaint or fee dispute with the Florida bar worth it based on the contract itself or more due to the behavior of the attorney?

    As far as lenders, their liens, and some of them taking on a position of simply holding onto the notes till fully paid I could argue why it's not in their interest to follow that strategy but that's neither here nor there.


    ATTORNEY CONSULTATION AND FEE CONTRACT

    In consideration of the mutual promises herein contained, the parties hereto agree as follows:
    I. PURPOSE OF REPRESENTATION
    1.01 The Client hereby retains and employs the Attorney to represent Client in the following matter:
    Client desires attorney representation for one (1) attempt at negotiating a reduced payoff with lender on Broward County property where Client purchased at condominium association foreclosure sale. Client understands and Client acknowledges that Attorney has advised Client that Attorney can only attempt to improve situation with the current lender and that no results have been promised or guaranteed with regard to the outcome of the negotiation.
    Initial:____
    II. ATTORNEY'S FEE
    2.01 In consideration of services rendered and to be rendered by the Attorney, Client agrees to pay for the Attorney's time at the following hourly rates:
    $3500.00 nonrefundable, flat Attorneys fee, earned upon receipt, which shall be due upon execution.
    Initial:___
    The attorney's fees do not include postage, copy and certified copy expenses, delivery charges, and any other out-of-pocket costs. These costs will be treated as additional expenses and will be included in our bill.
    You agree to pay those reasonable expenses. If payments are not made promptly to us as requested, we reserve the right to immediately withdraw from representing you in any and all matters that the law firm is handling. You agree to the withdrawal.
    However, if Client's claim is governed by a statute or law which sets the Attorney's fees, and the law precludes any other fee arrangement other than the amount set by law, then the amount payable to the Attorney shall be limited to the maximum allowed by law.
    2.02 $3500.00 nonrefundable, flat Attorneys fee, earned upon receipt, which shall be due upon execution.
    2.03 At the time of each billing, the amount of legal services and expenses billed by the Attorney shall be disbursed from the Attorney's Trust Account to the Attorney's Operating Account.
    a. Each billing will reflect the legal services rendered and the deposit necessary to cover the estimated legal services and expenses for the next billing period.
    b. Client agrees to make such additional deposits for expenses as are required by the Attorney within ten (10) days from the statement's date.
    c. Unpaid fees and expenses, if not paid within ten (10) days from the statement's date, shall bear interest at the rate of 18 percent per annum until paid.
    d. All sums due and to become due are payable at the Attorney's office in Broward County, FLORIDA.
    III. APPROVAL NECESSARY FOR SETTLEMENT
    3.01 The Attorney is authorized to enter into any and all settlement negotiations on behalf of those whom the Attorney represents. This includes, but is not limited to, the Attorney's prerogative to pursue cash or structured payment settlement negotiations.
    3.02 Client grants to the Attorney a power of attorney to handle negotiations and settlement discussions regarding Client's legal matter to the same extent as fully as Client could do so in person.
    a. This expressly includes the right to sign Client's name on and to any insurance company drafts, money orders, cashier's checks, checks or other negotiable instruments made payable to the Attorney and Client, the Attorney, or to Client without the joinder of the Attorney, submitted to the Attorney on behalf of Client in full or partial settlement of this case.
    b. This limited power of attorney further authorizes the Attorney to place the monies, referred to above, in the Attorney's trust account and from that trust account, make distributions and payments to the Attorney for the agreed to fee stated above, reimbursement to Attorney for any and all expenses incurred by the Attorney in handling this case, payments to Client of Client's interest in the monies recovered as stated above, and payments to parties other than Client and Attorney for their services performed, fees charged or bills rendered in connection with representing Client, including but not limited to expert witness fees, trial preparation bills paid to outside services, court reporter fees, deposition fees, investigative services, costs of exhibits or other expenses incurred by Attorney on behalf of Client.
    3.03 No settlement shall be made without Client's approval, nor shall Client obtain any settlement on the aforesaid claims without the Attorney's approval.
    3.04 Attorney is granted a limited power of attorney so that the Attorney may have full authority to prepare, sign and file all legal instruments, pleadings, drafts, authorizations and papers as shall be reasonably necessary to conclude this representation, including settlement and/or reduce to possession any and all monies or other things of value due to Client under this claim as fully as
    Client could do so in person.
    IV. REPRESENTATIONS
    4.01 It is expressly agreed and understood that no promises or guarantees as to the outcome of the case have been made to Client by Attorney. Attorney has not represented to Client that Client will recover all or any of the funds so desired. Client also acknowledges that obtaining a judgment does not guarantee that the opposing party will be able to satisfy the judgment. It is further expressly understood and agreed that no other representations have been made to Client, except for those set out in this Agreement.
    Initial:___
    V. EXPENSES
    5.01 All reasonable expenses incurred by the Attorney in the handling of this legal matter shall be paid by Client as incurred.
    Initial:___
    5.02 The expenses contemplated include but are not limited to court costs, consultants' costs, bonds, records, copy costs, certified copies, transcripts or depositions, telephone calls, duplication costs, photographs, expert and other witness fees, cost of investigation and investigator's fees, postage, travel, parking, and any other case expenses. Client shall deposit with Attorney an expense deposit in the amount of $0.00 which shall be deposited in the Attorney's Trust Account. The Attorney may draw against the expenses in the trust account as the expenses are incurred.
    5.03 Any expenses not timely paid by Client shall be deducted by the Attorney prior to Client receiving her interest in the amount set forth in paragraph two (2) above. Client shall remain liable and promptly pay for all expenses incurred in this representation.
    VI. COOPERATION OF CLIENT
    6.01 Client shall keep the Attorney advised of Client's whereabouts at all times, and provide the Attorney with any changes of address, phone number or business affiliation during the time period which Attorney's services are required. Client shall comply with all reasonable requests of the Attorney in connection with the preparation and presentation of Client's legal matter.
    6.02 The Attorney may withdraw from the case and cease to represent Client for any reason, including without limitation: Client's failure to timely pay fees and expenses or deposits in accordance with this Agreement, subject to the professional responsibility requirements to which Attorneys are subject.
    6.03 It is further understood and agreed that upon such termination of any services of the Attorney, any of Client's deposits remaining in Attorney's Trust Account shall be applied to any balance remaining owing to Attorney for fees and/or expenses and any surplus then remaining shall
    be refunded to Client.
    VII. ASSOCIATION OF OTHER ATTORNEYS OR SERVICES
    7.01 The Attorney may, at Attorney's sole discretion and expense, employ any other person or service that the Attorney believes is necessary to help or assist in this legal representation.
    7.02 The rights set forth in this Agreement are subject to the professional responsibility requirements which regulate Attorneys.
    VIII. FLORIDA LAW TO APPLY
    8.01 This Agreement shall be construed under and in accordance with the laws of Florida, and venue for the adjudication of any dispute relating to this Agreement shall be Broward County, FLORIDA.
    IX. PARTIES BOUND
    9.01 This Agreement shall be binding upon and inure to the benefit of the parties hereto and their respective heirs, executors, administrators, legal representatives, successors and assigns where permitted by this Agreement.
    X. LEGAL CONSTRUCTION
    10.01 In case any one or more of the provisions contained in this Agreement shall, for any reason, be held to be invalid, illegal, or unenforceable in any respect, such invalidity, illegality, or unenforceability shall not affect any other provisions thereof and this Agreement shall be construed as if such invalid, illegal, or unenforceable provision had never been contained herein.
    XI. PRIOR AGREEMENTS SUPERSEDED
    11.01 This Agreement constitutes the sole and only agreement by and between the parties. It supersedes any prior understandings or written or oral agreements between the parties concerning the subject matter discussed herein.
    XII. RESOLUTION OF FEE DISPUTES BY ARBITRATION
    12.01 Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to a fee charged pursuant to this Contract shall be settled by arbitration under the fee arbitration rule of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar. Judgment upon the award rendered may be entered in any court having competent jurisdiction.
    TAX DISCLOSURE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENT:
    CLIENT IS ADVISED TO OBTAIN INDEPENDENT AND COMPETENT TAX ADVICE REGARDING THESE LEGAL MATTERS SINCE LEGAL TRANSACTIONS CAN GIVE RISE TO TAX CONSEQUENCES.
    THE UNDERSIGNED LAW FIRM AND ATTORNEY HAVE NOT AGREED TO RENDER ANY TAX ADVICE AND ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY ADVICE REGARDING TAX MATTERS OR PREPARATION OF TAX RETURNS, OR OTHER FILINGS, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, STATE AND FEDERAL INCOME AND INHERITANCE TAX RETURNS.
    FURTHERMORE, CLIENT SHOULD OBTAIN PROFESSIONAL HELP REGARDING THE VALUATION AND LOCATION OF ALL ASSETS WHICH MAY BE THE SUBJECT OF A LEGAL MATTER INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO PENSIONS, EMPLOYMENT BENEFIT AND PROFIT SHARING RIGHTS THAT MAY BE CONTROLLED BY ANY OTHER PARTY TO THE LEGAL MATTER.
    I certify and acknowledge that I have had the opportunity to read this Agreement. I further state that I have voluntarily entered into this Agreement fully aware of its terms and conditions.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    6,888

    Default Re: Are Attorney's Required to Provide Billing Statements on Flat Fee Payments

    I haven't read that many retainer agreements to say if this is standard or not but it seems straight forward.

    If you think the attorney didn't do what he was hired to do, ask for a copy of your file in a letter. You are entitled to that.

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