Fees, Billing Practices And Working With Your Lawyer


I charge $395 per hour, and I record and bill my time in 1/10 of an hour (6 minute) increments.  I charge for all the time spent by me on your behalf, which includes telephone calls between us, reviewing and responding to your e-mails, time I spend gathering information, time I spend traveling on your behalf (but never for trips between the mainland and Hawaii!) and time I spend reviewing any paperwork you’ve given me.

If I’ve done work for you that I believe you shouldn’t have to pay for, your bill will show my time and a charge listed next to it, but you will also see “NO CHARGE”  or “DISCOUNT” listed after the description of my activities.  The discount shows up under “Payment” on the invoice.

Some law firms will charge you for a portion of their overhead costs in addition to their hourly fee, for example, passing on the costs of computerized legal research or additionally charging you a percentage of their hourly fee for their expenses.  I don’t do that.  To be clear, you will not be charged for:

  • postage
  • photocopies made in my office
  • local or long distance telephone or fax charges
  • word processing charges
  • computer charges for computer research

There are only a few expenses that you will need to pay for – and they are for services that I pay for on your behalf.  You will only pay for these expenses at their actual cost, and receipts will always be provided to you.  Examples of these expenses include:

  • state fees (incorporation or LLC filing fees)
  • large document photocopy jobs that require using a photocopy service
  • recording, court filing and notary fees

Some clients worry that the billing clock starts to tick the second they say hello to me on the phone.   I don’t start that particular clock until we get down to business – our initial chit chat about the dog or the weather is free.  However, please be aware that when we get down to business, you will be billed for the time I spend talking to you, even for the smallest legal question.

Billing Practices

I will send you a bill once a month, at the end of each month.  This bill will show the time spent by me on your behalf, by day and to the 1/10 of an hour (6 minute increments), with the work I’ve done described in detail.  You should plan to pay this bill within 30 days after you receive it.  If you have any questions, I encourage you to call me before you pay the bill.

Some clients are concerned that they’ll receive a huge monthly bill that they didn’t anticipate.  Before I start, I can usually estimate how much time I will need to spend on your matter.  Also, you can set a limit on the amount of time I can spend on your matter, and I won’t go over that time unless you give me permission to do so.  However, please note that an estimate is not a flat fee nor a guarantee that my fees won’t exceed the estimate.

File Retention Policy

I will keep any files I have for you for at least three years.  I will continue to keep them (a) so long as I am still working your matter or (b) if it is an original document.  If it is an original document, I will send it to you if I am purging your other files.  In addition, I don’t keep drafts of any documents once I have a final, signed version.


Unlike other attorneys, I generally don’t take a retainer (money paid in advance by a client before the attorney begins work on their matter, with the amount based on an estimate of the fees that the attorney will earn).  You, as a client, are trusting me to do my best work for you.  I, as your attorney, will trust you to pay your fees in a timely manner.  If you don’t pay me in a timely manner, I will charge you interest, and I won’t continue to do work for you until you pay me.  In fact, I may require a retainer to do further work for you.

I will charge you a retainer if it looks like I’m going to be doing a great deal of work for you in a relatively short period of time, if I’m going to be paying fees for you on your behalf or if you weren’t referred to me by someone I know.  If I haven’t asked you for a retainer when you hire me, then this paragraph doesn’t apply to you! 

Contacting me

Please feel free to call me at any time and be sure to leave a message for me if I’m out of the office or on another call.  If I’m in the office, I’m usually able to return your call within the hour; if I’m out of the office, I’m usually able to return your call within the same day. 

The best way to contact me is via e-mail, because I compulsively check my email at all times of the day.  My e-mail address is Teri@shugartlegal.com