Do you have feedback, questions, concerns, or a complaint?
The law is complex. Full of jargon, Latin phrases, and procedural traditions. We don’t expect our clients to understand all of that. After all, that is why you hired an experienced attorney, right? However, attorneys can get stuck in “work mode.” After days of talking to other attorneys and the courts, they continue to use confusing language or unfamiliar terms to speak with you about your case. We always want you to understand what is going on in your case.
If you are having trouble understanding what is happening with your legal matter, the first remedy that we suggest is to provide feedback to one of our staff.
Staff members are an excellent bridge between the legal world (the court and your attorney) and those of us who don’t speak legal jargon. Staff typically have more availability to clients as they do not manage court schedules, depositions, or client meetings. That said, our support team will not advise you as to what actions you can take, so there are limitations to what assistance staff can provide.
Another resource for getting some answers to legal questions would be The Ohio Legal Help Website. Ohio Legal help established this website to provide free information on some common legal issues. The website offers topics grouped into blocks, including;
- housing issues
- money and debt issues
- crime and traffic issues
- available health and public benefits
- what to expect when going to court.
Suppose you are concerned that your questions aren’t being heard or feel that your legal representation isn’t meeting your expectations. We try to act on feedback, but we can do little to help if the feedback is vague, anonymous, or lacking in details. In that case, we invite you to send a message directly to our Operations Manager, Andrew Cook. You can do this by using the contact page and writing “Attention Operations Manager” in the adverse parties block. Using this communications method, we find that we can resolve most of the concerns and frustrations that our clients are having.
We have provided a Q & A to explain typical concerns that arise routinely.
Q: Why are things taking so long?
A: This is, perhaps, the concern we hear most. Clients are understandably eager to be done with the legal issue they are facing. While you wait, it feels like it is taking forever. Unfortunately, the legal process isn’t like fixing a clogged drain. For most of the problems we face, such as the blocked drain, we are used to calling a plumber. They then give us a date when they will do the work, and after some hours in our home, the clog is fixed. Lastly, we get a bill. Legal work, with few exceptions, never gets wrapped up so neatly.
In many cases, your case requires research, which takes time.
While two similar legal cases may look the same, they often have tiny differences that make a big difference. These differences impact how your lawyer handles a case. It is your lawyer’s responsibility to ensure that a technicality or oversight doesn’t derail your case. After filing your lawsuit, they are reviewed and scrutinized by the court system. Once researched, there is typically a period of writing out the findings and filing paperwork with the courts. The review then results in a response back to the attorney.
Depending on the court’s observations, further questions will need an answer before making a final decision.
The court may ask for more evidence, a further review of the law, or set hearings to discuss any issues at hand. There are also many times when an attorney needs to send a letter to the opposing counsel. The opposing counsel has several days to review, research, write, and respond. We try to predict how long the process will be, but it is only an educated guess. Behind the scenes, our staff and attorneys are constantly working to move your case forward, even if you can’t see it.
If you are starting to feel like someone forgot about you, it is best to call and check with the support staff handling your case to see what is going on.
Q: Why won’t my attorney return my phone calls?
A: Your attorney, whether at Dagger Law or elsewhere, is busy. Attorneys spend their days in court, interacting with other clients, conducting research, and drafting written correspondence. Your attorney probably doesn’t have much time for “drop-in” calls or visits. That isn’t to say they don’t have time for you. Still, most attorneys manage their time each day so that the critical things that are “moving” get attention first. Those items that are “waiting” for someone else to take action get handled appropriately, even if they have a lower priority.
There are times when we get clients who want to call daily to see how things are going with their case. While you have the right to contact your attorney, you have to be aware that constantly requiring your attorney’s time might lead to running up a hefty bill. We recommend that if you want to check in with someone about your case, get to know the support staff handling it. Many of them can field a quick phone call or respond to an email without running the risk of creating a bill for their time.
Q: Why is this so expensive? You just wrote one letter/met with me once/did something easy for me.
A: Working with an attorney is often like the story of the elves who make the shoes. You leave a pile of materials out overnight and return the next day to find shoes. Easy, right? Only we don’t see all the hard work that the elves put in. A single letter might require considerable research to ensure that all the legal arguments presented are valid and factual. Your brief meeting might have entailed an hour’s worth of legal advice that you can take action on, and that easy “thing” that your attorney did is seldom easy.
Our policy is to bill a fair rate, in line with industry averages given the attorney’s experience and length of practice, for billable work. Keep in mind that the work we do, whether for a divorce, creating a will, or establishing a new business, must eventually stand up in court. The cost to you, if our work isn’t of a high legal standard, will be much greater if a legal test reveals a problem. Attention to detail and a methodical approach are worth the cost of getting it right the first time.
Q: What can I do if I believe my attorney has mishandled my case?
A: The first thing that we ask is for you to contact the attorney in question to review and discuss the concern directly. Just because a client doesn’t understand why something has happened doesn’t mean that the attorney did something incorrectly. Legal malpractice does happen, but all lawyers take great pains to ensure that they practice within the law and in an ethical manner. The Ohio Supreme Court constantly monitors these issues, so the chances that your lawyer conducting themselves in such a manner are small.
Suppose you are having trouble contacting your attorney or feel more comfortable talking to someone else about the issue. In that case, our contact page is a great place to ask your questions as our Operations Manager, Andrew Cook, screens and reviews those emails. If there are errors or misunderstandings, we certainly want to correct them and do the right thing for our clients.
Q: Whom can I contact if I have billing questions?
A: The easiest way to get billing questions answered is to call our office and speak to someone who can answer billing questions. Talking allows us to discuss misunderstandings or walk through the bill’s details to make sense of the invoice. We try to make our billing presentable in an informative and transparent format, but that can also mean there are many details to comb through. We are happy to help our clients understand billing, so don’t hesitate to call and ask questions! We request that you talk with someone because we find that issues are most apparent when two people can review the document in question together
The law is adversarial, at times, and there will be winners and losers.
We understand that things don’t always go the way we expect or hope. While our primary goal is to bring about the best outcomes for our clients, there are days when “the best” doesn’t feel so great. The law is a complex tool, and there are countless examples where the law doesn’t run a parallel course with what we might view as fair, compassionate, or kind.
In many instances, legal cases are adversarial by their very nature.
In a divorce, matters of child custody, criminal charges, and many other legal issues pit your lawyer against an opposing counsel. The two opposite sides of the case are both kept in check by a judge. In some cases, a jury determines the final outcome. Needless to say, there are many moving parts in most cases, and few of them are genuinely predictable. Because of this, we know that some portion of legal clients won’t end up happy despite an attorney’s best efforts.
We have all heard the old saying that when life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade.
While we all love an upbeat outlook on life, the truth of the matter is that some piles of lemons are just bigger than others, and sometimes you don’t want lemonade. Almost any time you need an attorney, your life is in full lemon mode. At Dagger Law, we understand that, and we pride ourselves on being able to clear as many lemons as possible from your life.
We uphold your right to be angry and your right to voice your opinion. However, we would prefer to work with you to make the situation right for you, and we hope you will reach out to us to work through a resolution as a first step.
Explaining Some Common Misconceptions About Attorney Fees: The Retainer – By Andrew Cook, Operations Manager for Dagger Law
When I started working at Dagger Law four years ago, I was admittedly naive about legal work. As I interacted with our clients and others seeking legal help, I began to see some common threads in the misconceptions about what happens when you hire an attorney. There are aspects to the business that are common among all companies, and then there are those areas that are unique to Law firms. I want to discuss an area that causes frequent misunderstandings, and that is the retainer fee.
First, I should point out that not every legal case requires a retainer.
Many pricing structures exist within the legal world. The traditional flat-rate model sets a single price for a single service to a contingency fee model. If using a contingency fee, the attorney gets paid a percentage of the amount you recover in your case. There is a wide range of tools that lawyers can use to set a value for their services.
In cases where a retainer is requested, an attorney probably bills using an hourly pricing model. So, if you are getting billed for work based on an hourly rate, why ask for a retainer?
One of the most common misconceptions I run into is that a retainer is like a down payment when buying a new car. $2000 down, and then you pay $500 per month.
The car-buying example is not the way a retainer works. It might be better to think of a retainer as putting gas in the tank before you take your car on a long trip. A full tank of gas allows you to drive for a while without having to pull over. A retainer allows your attorney to move your case along without hitting you up for gas money every 15 minutes. Most people wouldn’t put just enough gas in the tank to drive for ten minutes and then pull over to add a few bucks to the tank and continue that way until they reach their destination.
The reality is that legal cases rarely have a convenient map that tells you how long the trip will be and where there may be traffic jams.
This analogy seems a bit silly, but it does an excellent job of illustrating a point. A retainer is your attorney’s way of telling you that the trip will be a long one, and they don’t want to leave you stranded on the side of the road.
With the above analogy in mind, there are a couple of other things you should know about your retainer.
First, a retainer fee is an estimate. It shouldn’t be assumed to match the money required to handle your case exactly. While most circumstances require more money than the retainer, a few require less. In these instances, we refund the money not used to complete the case to the client. Try that at a gas station! Second, we keep your retainer in a trust account that is uniquely yours. Your retainer can’t be applied to help fill someone else’s gas tank. Lastly, you will receive statements that outline how your attorney spent the retainer money so you can understand how your legal journey is progressing.