As an attorney practicing law in California, I am required by the rules of ethics to have a written fee agreement with every client when I expect to provide over $1000 in services. As a matter of course in all of my cases I have clients sign fee agreements. I find that the fee agreement, properly explained, gets my client and me off on the right foot without any misunderstandings.
I am a sole practitioner, which means I work alone with the help of one part-time secretary. I have an office in an executive office suite, which means I receive a lot of services as part of the executive office package. This has proven to save me a lot of overhead costs compared to the other options. I have decided to pass along the bulk of these savings to my clients. At present I charge $210 per hour, but all of my contracts include a provision that allows me to raise my hourly rate by giving 30 days notice.
Payment Plans, Options, and Credit Cards
I can accept payments by credit card. I can be paid from the proceeds from the sale of the family residence, if it is going to be sold. I do not want my fee to be the reason a family residence must be sold. When I represent the lower earning spouse I will seek to have the high earning spouse pay some of my client's attorney fees and costs. This is specifically allowed under Family Code section 2030. The decision rests with the sound discretion of the judge who will be trying to balance the burden of attorney fees. It is of course easier for the higher earning spouse to pay for an attorney than the lower earning spouse. This sort of order is not a penalty or punishment of the higher earning spouse although it is common for that spouse to think of it as punishment. I can also place clients on a monthly payment plan, after the initial retainer, but the payment plan must be one that will get me paid within a reasonable period of time, not over a matter of years. If payments are made after I have completed services then I can, at my option, charge interest on the unpaid balance until paid in full.