What should I pay my attorney?

Like all professions the practice of law mostly involves activities that the client never sees. And it is the quantity and quality of work by the attorney that is the largest factor in getting a good result.

The best result is having the foreclosure dismissed or vacated with findings of fact that make it virtually impossible for the foreclosing party to try again. To get that result you need experienced trial counsel who does all the work he/she thinks is necessary to achieve the goal. Those are at the top of winning food chain.

If you must pay less then you must lower your goal or buy a winning lottery ticket.

Let us help you plan your foreclosure defense strategy, discovery requests and defense narrative: 202-838-6345. Ask for a Consult

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THIS ARTICLE IS NOT A LEGAL OPINION UPON WHICH YOU CAN RELY IN ANY INDIVIDUAL CASE. HIRE A LAWYER.

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There are some lawyers to whom I refer clients for representation.  Like me, they like to win — not merely justify a fee. They don’t consider “delaying the inevitable” to be a winning or even viable strategy, mainly because they don’t believe that foreclosure is inevitable. I consider their fees to be very reasonable.

On the issue of attorney fees, I have a story. When I first started practicing law I worked in the law office of what I then considered to be an “older” lawyer — i.e., a little more than 1/2 my present age. His wife was the bookkeeper. She was the one that had to argue with clients to pay the fees that were charged. Eventually people who were complaining or objecting said the obvious — that other lawyers charge less for the “same work” —  which was true. So she put up a sign in the waiting room that said the following:

“If you want nice fresh oats we can give them to you at a reasonable price. But if you are satisfied with oats that have already been through the horse, you can get them for a lot less.”

Moral of the story: It’s not the hourly rate you should be shopping for. And it’s not the length of time it takes to get there that counts. It’s the result. The only way to get legal representation is to pay for it. The question is cost of services vs cost of losing the home.

I hear many complaints from homeowners about how the lawyer didn’t do all the things that could have been done — discovery, motions, trial preparation etc. They are right in most cases that the lawyer did not do the work that now, in retrospect, the client would have liked. But in almost all cases, the problem was not with the lawyer; it was with the client who couldn’t pay or didn’t want to pay for the full work load.

To put numbers to this issue, if you are paying the equivalent of $100 per hour, don’t expect the lawyer to drop everything and concentrate for days on developing a defense narrative that the lawyer thinks he can “sell” to the trial court. If you are paying a few hundred dollars per month the result is the same. The lawyer owes you nothing except to provide the services you pay for.

If your retainer agreement calls for billing at $450+ per hour, you have every right to expect the full job to be done. Likewise if you are paying $2500+ per month, you can expect the full job to be done.

If you are paying $300 per month and expecting services worth $2500 per month you are mistaken. Those services will not be delivered which means that discovery, motions to compel, motions for summary judgment, depositions, trial preparation will either not get done at all or will be perfunctory.

I generally don’t litigate in court anymore. I serve as consultant, writer, researcher and expert witness on cases involving the securitization of debt. I have been actually licensed by government agencies and securities trade groups to do business literally on Wall Street in Manhattan and I did so. My hourly rate is $650 per hour for my time and $150 per hour for paralegal time. The fee is justified not only by our past successes but because we can actually accomplish more in less time and we win (not all the time). So while our customers are paying $650 per hour, in many cases it only takes an hour for me to do my work because I have so much experience with similar cases and fact patterns. Other less experienced lawyers either take much longer for the same job (thus increasing the cost of the project) or they might not take time to do what lawyers are really paid to do — think.

I am not engaging in a discussion about what our judicial system should look like. I am merely dealing with reality. In a capitalist economy where everything is measured in monetary value, everything happens because of money. It’s the fuel that pushes things along. Without the fuel, the horse simply lays down and takes a nap.

9 Responses

  1. @ legisman – you may be onto something here.

  2. Susan, Melissa, Neil Garfield has no wins, if he did, would he not post them?

  3. This is the first or second reasonable post that I’ve read here in several months. This actually speaks to reality, not to fantasy. I like it.

  4. Yeah Susan…this is a troubling post, it continues the “falsehood” of homeowners, not getting it right. Not only are we deadbeats, liars, cheats, looking for free houses, but now we don’t pay enough to warrant good representation.The onus is on the homeowner for 100% of everything. Most of the lawyers I have dealt with are not even worth $50.00 per hour and who can you trust? The reality is: even if I bought every service from Neil…what would I do with it? The experience necessary to navigate the justice system, lmao, is unavailable for the vast majority of us. And I can tell everyone here, the “entire game”, which is what it is, is very, very prejudice to the pro se-homeowner…

  5. This post troubles me greatly. It underscores why we have had over 18 Million foreclosures. Homeowners have been ignored, or thrown under the bus, by regulators and elected officials. The banks have paid BILLIONS in fines for fraudulent actions. No homeowners made whole, yet we, the victims, have to defend ourselves when we are, in truth, the plaintiffs. We cannot get a jury trial. A common thief has more rights than we do. We cannot get a court appointed attorney. So, when most of us have real causes of action against ‘banks’, we are drowning. If we got what we paid for, none of us would be in this position because the regulators would have done their jobs and stopped the wholesale theft of America’s wealth.
    Opposing lawyers delay, delay, delay. All the while we are paying lawyers (no matter how much) who do little to prevent the delays.
    If every ‘defense’ lawyer automatically filed a counterclaim, we wouldn’t be here either. We have to get to juries.
    Yes, I am truly troubled by this post.
    List the wins.
    I will die of S4 cancer after more than 8 years and over $20,000 to lawyers. The banks already stole my retirement funds. Now I will be a statistic because the law should work. It doesn’t. As in the post above. My timeline and paperwork should make it a slam dunk. Instead, I am destroyed. By every regulator, elected official and, unfortunately, lawyers
    Yes, I am truly troubled by this post..

  6. For my $.02…when you have gotten 100% of all the paperwork possible. Research has been done to a standard that is usable. You’ve spent thousands of dollars and your own time, then hire a lawyer, whom you cannot know up-front is qualified, because you are not sufficiently educated about submissions, responses, evidence and most of all procedure…you are still at a zero sum game! I have had 3 lawyers, all of them claim, my case is the best they have ever seen and take the cash money, send me off to pay for certified copies of files (Thousands Dollars worth, +/-), then tell me, after the fact…oh, this doesn’t matter, that’s a moot point, etc…pose zero defenses or object to anything, this is minimal stuff at Magistrates hearings and DeNovo hearings…then ask for more cash, after committing to file suit (He called me and asked to file the civil suit), then tell me the money specifically designated for the suit was used up elsewhere, after the loss at the DeNovo hearing, no return calls, nothing happens. If anyone can tell me, how to find the honest lawyer in the bunch, I’d love to hear it. Because we have scoured the area and most will tell you what you want to hear, and remember, I know this case better than anyone. And, 10 years in, so they cannot trick me that-a-way, but they do with their lack of experience. They ask for the fee to do the job, I didn’t offer any more or less. Simple Neil, they lie. And it does me personally, no good to have everything we need to win and have someone incapable or lazy, working against me. More than anything, in my case, we need someone who knows how to address the court, what to file, when and procedure, which is where we keep getting our arse handed to to us. We are in Chapter 13 and the lawyers are literally ganging up…5 of them. This is exactly where we get trapped. The judge allows multiple parties representing the same interests, there are 2 claims filed, one with a order of foreclosure in state court on hold, while they file a claim in the Federal Court, by a secondary party, unrelated to the order, for over twice the amount…it is overwhelming, to say the least! I could go on and on about the lawyers and the court…nothing equitable or fair about it! Navigating it with or without a lawyer is challenging, to say the very least! It’s like trying to find a good doctor…they all graduated with a degree, so they are all doctors, but would you want to have the person graduating at the bottom of the class doing your operation or the guy who has a work ethic and graduated top of his class? The answer is obvious…and most of the time the average person never gets the inside information on who’s the best and brightest.

  7. Reblogged this on California freelance paralegal and commented:
    You only get what you pay for may be an old saying but it is the absolute truth when it comes to hiring an attorney or any other professional.

  8. The economy is not what the stock market suggests. Although I agree attorneys are best way to go, many just cannot risk these payments. They are trapped in a high rate loan, with inflated fees, and inflated appraisal, and just want something reasonable – with clear title. .

    The government did not do it’s job.

    The party named as foreclosing is NOT the real party. The government knows this.

  9. I have no problem paying a lawyer of expert for their time. The problem is finding one that is worth their hourly wage, ie: 650.00 per hour. I want to and see read the wins, In other words, “The Proof is in the Pudding.”

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