Overbilling is one of the more common types of legal malpractice when you hire an attorney that bills you by the hour, and it happens much more often than most clients realize. Even though there are many great attorneys out there who do great work for their clients, there are also unfortunately lawyers who truly value the trust of their clients, lawyers who will commit unethical and sometimes even criminal acts in order to line their own pockets. Many times this shows up in the form of overbilling the client.
If after working with an attorney you think that you may have been a victim of overbilling, Ross Sears II of Sears Crawford is here to explain how to sue a lawyer for overbilling.
What is considered overbilling?
Generally speaking, there are three ways to pay an attorney: 1) hourly; 2) flat fee; and 3) Contingency fee. Hourly is what it sounds like. You hire an attorney at an agreed-upon hourly rate and your attorney then bills you for any and all time spent working on your case. Generally, but not always, this type of fee arrangement takes place when the client is being sued and needs an attorney to defend them. Sometimes, and generally on smaller cases, an attorney may enter into an agreement to work on a “flat fee” which means the attorney will charge a single fee, regardless of how long the case takes or how many hours the attorney spends working on the case. Finally, the contingency fee is charged more often on the Plaintiff’s side of the case (the person filing a civil lawsuit for money damages) and the attorney charges a percentage of the case and only gets paid if and when the client gets paid. All of these forms of attorney payment can give rise to overcharging and/or excessive or “unconscionable” fees.
Overbilling is a type of legal malpractice (or breach of fiduciary duty) that involves lawyers who charge an excessive, unreasonable or unconscionable fee for their legal services. In most legal malpractice cases, this occurs when an attorney overcharges their hourly rate or exaggerates the time it took to complete tasks relating to your case, but it can also occur when an attorney is charging an unconscionable contingency fee. Lawyers who overbill know that their clients may not have a point of reference for how much time and effort these tasks take, and will attempt to take advantage of their position of fidelity and trust.
Keep reading: What is legal malpractice?
What can you do if your attorney is overbilling you?
If you believe your attorney has overcharged you for the work performed, whether it be by hourly fee or by contingency fee, we advise that you first speak with your attorney about your concerns. The attorney should have an incentive to keep you happy and make things right with you, rather than risk your filing a lawsuit against them for the above-described acts.
If for some reason, your attorney is not cooperating with you, your next step should be to get a second opinion from a legal malpractice attorney, to see if they recommend a fee dispute. An experienced legal malpractice attorney, like Ross Sears from Sears Crawford, will be able to sift through the evidence provided and determine whether or not you have grounds for a lawsuit. Among the many reasons to file a lawsuit against an attorney, overbilling may seem like a small thing, but should not be overlooked, because it is an area of the Attorney-Client relationship that is often abused.
How to fight excessive attorney fees
The answer to how to sue a lawyer for overbilling is simple: hire an experienced legal malpractice attorney to represent you. When it comes to legal malpractice cases, you cannot simply hire any attorney you have heard about on television. If you are going head-to-head with another lawyer, you need an experienced and aggressive Legal Malpractice attorney fighting in your corner.
When looking for a lawyer, you should consider hiring a Board Certified lawyer. Why? Hiring a lawyer who is Board Certified in Personal Injury Law, which encompasses legal malpractice, strengthens your case immensely – after all, only approximately 5% of practicing attorneys in the state of Texas are Board Certified by the state. Hiring a Board Certified attorney like Ross Sears II can make the difference between winning and losing your case of overbilling.