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My initial thinking, in hiring a divorce lawyer, was that I wanted to go ahead and let someone else do it. Our divorce was straightforward: we had no kids, no property. We had already agreed on a settlement, and, with the help of our fathers (both former lawyers) had drafted the settlement agreement ourselves.

We had an initial meeting, the three of us. Once we clarified our points, all that was left was sending in various forms to her, sending various forms to each other, signing various things in general, filing various papers.

This process took almost two years.

I started feeling as though something wasn’t right several months in – everything just appeared to be at a standstill. The majority of our correspondence with this woman was following up: “Has this been filed?”  “Is there something more I need to do?”  “Did you send me a copy of that paper?”

Jake started to get brusque with her. I tend not to like the way he interacts with people he’s frustrated with, but in this situation I felt it was appropriate, and I was glad he was willing to be the heavy. Unfortunately, it didn’t help.

Skip ahead to the final details, a year and a half or so later: We get the final document, and her bill. Said bill has ten digits.  Needless to say, I was floored. Even at her $200/hour rate, how could she possibly justify this? Looking over the itemized list, she’s charged a quarter or a half hour for every email – both receiving and answering – every phone call, every paper faxed. This, I can imagine, is standard, but half of our communication with her was asking for follow up. I was billed an hour for a phone call in which she called me to say she had lost my address.

I sent her a detailed list of my concerns, to which I got a reply stating that Jake was incredibly rude to her throughout the process, I would find that this was, in fact, inexpensive for such a "complicated situation," and that she would not file the final papers until she was paid in full.

The questions: Am I right in believing that we were screwed over here? Is there any action I can take? Is there a way to formally complain? Is there any use?

The whole point of hiring a professional was to take some of the pressure of me. In hindsight, I would have been less aggravating to do it myself.

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6 comments

  • Comment Link Sandy Friday, 08 January 2010 16:19 posted by Sandy

    Follow Up: Hi Alice-

    Your post was almost a year ago and I am interested in how it turned out. Are you divorced? Did the attorney ever file the paper work or did you go another way?

    Reading your post was upsetting; I am a Legal Document Assistant and work for couples like you and your husband. I charge one fee ($867.) for everything: filing fees, filing the papers, serving them, settlement agreement, judgment, copies, a certified copy of the Judgment when entered, and all mailings.

    I don't know where you live, but if you have friends or know of people with your situation, look up your local Legal Document Assistant, or contact me and I will find one in your area.

    A divorce is difficult enough, someone who can assist you for the cause can make it much easier and the spouses usually remain friends.

    Keep me posted.

  • Comment Link Guest Friday, 08 May 2009 11:51 posted by Guest

    Legal advice divorce - report: This is an unfortunate situation. You can inquire if they belong to any associations like the Better Business Bureau or the United States Chamber of Commerce for instance and report this issue to them. It's always a good idea to research the lawyer's experience and board certifications since this is usually a good indication of their reputation.

  • Comment Link Guest Tuesday, 10 March 2009 16:22 posted by Guest

    Report: I work in law, and first let me apologize for this attorney. Provided what you say is true, you can, and should, report this to the state bar for your state. It is absolutely worth your time. Most state bars do not like to hear about simple fee disagreements, but her inability to keep you informed or respond to requests is a violation of her ethical duties. Go to their website and research the grievance procedures. Lawyers have a duty to respond to their clients timely, to keep their client's informed, and of course to bill ethically. Look at your initial retainer agreement and see if there was ever an agreement as to what time increment you would be billed in. Do you have notes of the time you spoke, and copies of her correspondence? Whether Jake was rude or not is of no concern. She is your attorney and has very specific heightened duties to you, her paying client. Your state may also have a fee dispute program you can take on. Please, take action. Even if it seems a hassle, don't let some unethical person get away with it.

  • Comment Link Andrea Sunday, 08 March 2009 09:32 posted by Andrea

    Oh phew: I have heard of 5 digit lawyer bills for a divorce, it's rather common. But you are right in challenging it.

  • Comment Link alicebrooks Saturday, 07 March 2009 19:55 posted by alicebrooks

    ... it's rather embarrassing: ... it's rather embarrassing to realize that you failed to notice a rather large typo in your text.

    Five. Five digits. How I managed to double it, I have no idea.

  • Comment Link Andrea Saturday, 07 March 2009 12:25 posted by Andrea

    10 DIGITS?????: Are you saying it was over a MILLION dollars??? Or does the 10 digits include the cents? Still, the figure was in the hundreds of thousands??? Are you kidding me?

    Complain to the bar IMMEDIATELY!