Overcharging for Legal Services
The standard rate for contingency fees on personal injury cases is 1/3 (33.33%). This means that your personal injury attorney is entitled to keep 1/3 of the total amount recovered on your behalf. In many cases, this makes sense. An attorney that agrees to handle a case on contingency agrees to take the risk of loss if the client's case is unsuccessful, in which case the attorney recovers nothing. It is also possible that the case becomes so complicated or expensive that, even if the case is successful, the attorney will not be able to recover enough (even at 33.33%) to compensate for the amount of time and expense required to obtain a favorable outcome.
However, many times this is not the case. There are some firms, (particularly those with advertising budgets that pay for television or billboard advertising) that settle 90% or more of their cases without ever filing a single document with any court, arbitrator or administrative panel. When the time spent is compared with the recovery obtained, a 1/3 contingency fee in such a simple case may represent a fee of thousands of dollars per hour.
Utah attorneys are governed by ethical rules contained in the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 1.5 governs fees that attorneys may charge for their services. Rule 1.5 notes that "A lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses." The Rule then lists several factors which should be taken into account when determining whether a fee is reasonable.
It is important that that any fee charged by an attorney be reasonable. It is unethical for an attorney to charge an unreasonable fee. At the Law Office of Gabriel K. White, we believe it is unethical for an attorney to charge fees that amount to thousands of dollars per hour simply because the attorney was able to settle the case before the commencement of any litigation. That is why we offer a discount to all clients whose cases settle without the need to file a complaint or other formal document with a court, arbitration panel or other decision-making body. If you have a case that you believe can be settled without the need for litigation, why not save yourself some money and contact The Law Office of Gabriel K. White?