Understanding how attorney's fees and attorney billing works can be difficult if you have never previously hired an attorney. Some attorney's bill hourly and others charge a flat fee. The vast majority of family attorney's, nearly all, charge by the hour. The way that attorneys get paid for that hourly rate is typically by you paying an up-front "retainer". This up-front retainer can be very misleading and many times leads to frustrated and disappointed client. Hopefully, this blog will help shed some light on this matter.
The attorney's hourly rate and that attorney's staff's hourly rate is what is critical for you to understand. The average rate for family attorneys in Broward County is between $250-$350 / hour, with some charging as high as $400. Many people, when calling multiple attorneys for quotes, are swayed toward a particular attorney based on the up-front retainer. Sometimes however, the attorney with the lowest up-front retainer will costs the most in the long run.
For example, if my office requests $3000 as an up-front retainer, and bills against that retainer at $300 / hour. You would be getting 10 hours of attorney's fees for that $3000. On the other hand, if another attorney ask for you to pay $2000 up front but then bills against that retainer at a rate of $350 / hour you would only get a little over 5 hours of attorney's fees for that amount.
Further, an attorney's personality, litigation style and business philosophy impacts how many hours they will bill in a case. There is a minimal amount of hours it will take ANY attorney to complete a case. What that number is charges on a case by case basis. For example, in a child support case, it is very unlikely these cases could be completed in less than 6-8 hours of attorney's time. If you hire an attorney who bills very aggressively, they might spend 15 hours on this case, where an attorney who bills more conservatively might spend only 7.
At the end of the day, finding an attorney that you trust, you like and that you feel is honest and will work to keep your fees low is the most important consideration if you are trying to keep your fees low. After this comes consideration of the hourly rate and the very last consideration is the up-front retainer.
My office is always flexible on up-front retainers. We just like for client to understand that regardless of the fee you pay up front, there is a certain minimal amount of time that we must work in order for you to see results.