1. If you are not able to schedule an initial meeting with a potential attorney within a week, it probably means that the attorney is too busy to take your case.
2. In personal injury cases, an attorney’s contingency fee percentage is always negotiable. While it may be typical for a Maryland personal injury attorneys to charge a one-third (33.33%) to forty percent (40%) contingency fee, many attorneys are willing to charge as low as twenty-five percent (25%), especially if the case can be settled without litigation.
3. When you retain an attorney on an hourly basis, the attorney must deposit your retainer into the Attorney Trust Account. An attorney cannot withdraw funds from the Attorney Trust Account, until and unless the funds are earned.
4. An attorney can charged a flat fee that is earned when paid, but only if the written retainer agreement discloses the numerous disadvantages of not depositing the client’s funds into the Attorney Trust Account.
5. A Maryland attorney cannot claim that his or her fee is non-refundable. If the attorney’s proposed retainer agreement states any portion of the client’s initial retainer is non-refundable, the client needs to find an attorney with higher ethical standards.
6. A client can terminate an attorney at any time for any reason. If a client is dissatisfied with the attorney, client should terminate the attorney sooner rather than later.
7. An Maryland attorney is not allowed to renegotiate a retainer agreement, unless the client is advised in writing to seek independent representation. For example, it is common for attorneys to seek additional assurances that he or she will be paid, especially if the client has fallen behind on paying the attorney’s invoices. The attorney will tell the client that it necessary for the client to sign a security instrument for the attorney to continue to represent the client. However, an attorney cannot request that a client sign a promissory note, a confessed judgment note, a lien on real property, or any other type of security instrument for past due fees or future legal fees, unless attorney advises the client in writing of the desireability of seeking independent representation.
8. A Maryland attorney cannot compel a client to arbitrate disputes arising out of the attorney-client relationship. If the attorney’s retainer agreement contains an arbitration clause, this provision is unenforceable.
9. A Maryland attorney has a contractual and ethical obligation to represent his or her clients in a diligent, competent, and professional manner. If the attorney breaches this contractual and ethical obligation, the attorney may be deemed to have forfeited some or all legal fees.
10. An attorney’s hourly fee agreement should state that the attorney’s billing increment is 0.1 hours or 6 minutes. There is absolutely no factual, logical, or legal basis for an attorney to charge in 0.2 hour (12 minutes), 0.25 hours (15 minutes) or 0.5 hours (30 minutes) increments.
11. An attorney is obligated to submit invoices on a regular basis. Most retainer agreement will state that the attorney will submit monthly invoices, which the client must pay within 30-days. If the client is not receiving periodic invoices from the client, the attorney is breaching his or her duty to keep the client reasonably informed of the status of the case.
12. An attorney’s invoices should be reasonably specific as to the nature of the work that the attorney has performed. For example, it is acceptable to state: “performed legal research on elements of fraud and drafted motion to dismiss defendant’s Count II for Fraud”. It is not accepttable for the invoice to state: “worked on case”.