In your first meeting with a lawyer, you should discuss how much your legal work is going to cost and how your payment is going to be made. You need this information to make an informed decision about how to proceed. Often, a lawyer cannot tell you exactly what the total charge will be because it is hard to estimate how much work is going to be involved. However, lawyers can usually estimate the minimum and maximum limits of the fee for that particular work, or give you some idea of the problems involved and the time that will be required.
The timetable for paying legal fees depends on arrangements between you and your lawyer. Usually, lawyers require an advance payment, often called a retainer, to cover the initial work and court costs paid on your behalf. In other matters, you will be billed at the end of each month or at the completion of the services.
You should never hesitate to discuss fees at any time during the handling of your legal matter. If you receive a statement that isn’t clear to you or believe the fee isn’t proper, talk it over with your lawyer. Misunderstandings about fees usually result from the fact that the client is not aware of the extent of the lawyer’s work on the case. This is by no means the client’s fault. If you do not regularly see your lawyer, you may understandably believe that the activities of the lawyer are limited to those which you do see. Yet, you should remember that a lawyer, unlike a doctor or dentist, performs many professional services when the client is not present. For example, clients are expected to pay their lawyer for time spent on phone calls, writing letters, or drafting and reviewing documents.