How Much Does a Florida Bankruptcy Attorney Cost
If the thought of paying down your bills is overwhelming, you may be contemplating finding a Florida bankruptcy attorney. It's natural in this financially strapped time to wonder how much an attorney would cost. This article will explain how bankruptcy lawyers charge for their time.
There are actually several factors that can influence the size of your legal bill, such as:
- The billing method the lawyer uses
- Within that billing method, how much the lawyer charges
- How long the bankruptcy process takes
- The amount of related legal expenses, such as filing fees and mandatory personal financial management education
The billing method a Florida bankruptcy attorney prefers to use can actually have as much impact on total legal costs as the attorney's billing rate. Most bankruptcy attorneys in Florida use one of two billing methods: an hourly fee or a flat fee.
While they are very different billing methods, neither typically includes other legal expenses related to handling your bankruptcy. In addition to your lawyer's time, you will also likely pay:
- Court fees
- Trustee fees (a trustee is the person assigned to oversee the bankruptcy)
- Consumer counseling fees
- Personal financial management education tuition
Whether you are in Key West or Pensacola or any point in between, you may also be billed separately for other law firm-related items not included in the lawyer's fee, such as photocopying, travel-related expenses, or use of a paralegal.
You may have room for negotiation with your Florida bankruptcy attorney regarding his or her rates, but you must discuss changing the legal fees before hiring a lawyer. A good time to talk about money matters is during the interview stage prior to hiring an attorney. Once you've hired him or her, it's too late to change the fee structure.
Hiring a Florida Bankruptcy Attorney by the Hour
When you pay by the hour, many Florida bankruptcy attorneys will ask you to pay a retainer fee, which acts as a down payment. You'll then receive monthly bills for the hours your lawyer worked on your filing.
Florida bankruptcy lawyers who charge by the hour usually break the hour down into either one-quarter (15 minute) or one-tenth (6 minute) intervals. That may seem like an insignificant difference, but it does add up.
For example, if you talked to your lawyer by phone for five minutes, the lawyer who charges $200 an hour in 15-minute increments would charge you $50 for that conversation. With a lawyer who charges $200 an hour in 6-minute increments would only charge $20 for that same conversation.
A bankruptcy lawyer's hourly rate is influenced by many things:
- How much experience he or she has
- Your location in Florida
- Whether you file Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 bankruptcy and the filing's complexity
- The cost of overhead to run the firm or office
Don't assume that you'll pay more just because a lawyer charges more. An experienced lawyer may be more efficient, thus saving you time and money.
Hiring a Florida Bankruptcy Lawyer for a Flat Fee
Lawyers who handle fairly routine matters, such as writing wills or handling bankruptcies, may offer their services for a flat fee. The fee may not necessarily cover court fees or other legal expenses. If you want to hire a Florida bankruptcy attorney for a flat fee, make sure you know exactly what is and is not included in the fee.
How and when you pay your flat fee will vary from lawyer to lawyer. Ask your attorney what kind of payment plan is expected of you before you hire him or her.
In addition, flat fees are not typically refundable, which means if you want to switch attorneys or you change your mind about filing bankruptcy, you will not get your money back. If you have any doubts, be sure to discuss this before hiring a lawyer on a flat fee.
The Cost of Hiring a Florida Bankruptcy Attorney
You have learned that lawyers can handle billing differently. You'll need to ask a lot of questions about the legal fees of the lawyers you are interviewing to hire. Here are some questions which should help you sort it out:
- Do you charge a flat fee or by the hour?
- What does your flat fee or hourly fee cover? What is not included?
- Is there any room for negotiation?
- What other expenses outside of your legal fees am I likely to pay? Can you estimate their total?
- If I pay a flat fee, what are my payment choices?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you'll know how much it costs to hire Florida bankruptcy attorney.