As optimistic as a person often is at the beginning of a case thinking they have found the “right” attorney for them, the reality is that relationships are hard, even professional ones. It is not uncommon to have more than one attorney in a case. The problem comes, however, when you continue to owe attorneys fees to your prior attorney yet need the funds to pay for your current lawyer. If your prior attorney has filed a petition for fees against you, here is what you need to know:
1. You owe the money. If you have an issue with the bill, pick up the phone and call the attorney to negotiate a payment arrangement. More likely than not the attorney is willing to work with you in order to resolve the matter. However, the issue will not go away by ignoring it, and there are laws in place that allow attorneys to collect fees from previous clients.
2. If you feel that your attorney did not do the work that you were billed, go through the bill and talk to the attorney about your reasoning. However, you should have contested the bill each time that you were billed. So aside from a courtesy credit by the attorney, it is probably too late in the game to go back months or even years to contest billing entries.
3. If you have the option to enter into a payment arrangement with the attorney as opposed to a judgment, take it. A judgment accrues at 9% statutory interest each year and may appear on your credit report. Furthermore, the attorney can decide to enforce the judgment at any time by placing a lien on your home or deducting a mandatory percentage from your paycheck each month automatically.
Attorneys fees can be an uncomfortable topic. It is always preferable that you settle any attorneys fees with your attorney as soon as they withdraw to avoid a petition for fees. However, if one has already been filed, it’s not too late to try and come to an agreement with them. An attorney is more likely to give you a better deal and work out an arrangement if it means they don’t have to litigate against their ex-client, and it will also mean fewer attorneys fees for you since you don’t have to pay your current attorney to defend against your prior attorney. If the matter goes before a judge, then the judge will decide the amount and the payment arrangement even if it is not something you can afford.