Verbeck Law Extended Policies
Verbeck Law retainers will have all the critical information about your relationship with your attorney and with our firm, and this page supplements your retainer with additional Verbeck Law policies that apply to every case. These policies are rarely if ever waived, but if they are, it will be done in writing and signed by both parties.
Verbeck Law prides itself on the reasonableness and transparency of our billing. We do both flat fee and hourly billing, depending on the specific case. Billing for contingency cases is controlled by the language in contingency retainers.
Flat Fee Billing
In a flat fee case, you pay us a fee up front, and that covers all the legal work we do on your case. This includes texts, emails, negotiations with the other side, or trial. It does not cover external costs, like filing fees, service fees, or expert witness fees. For example, if you have an eviction case with us, the fee you pay us will cover all our work, but if your case requires a filing, you will still have to pay the filing fee. In Alameda county, this is $240 at the date of writing. Should your case go to trial, we'll do the trial without charging you more, but you will have to pay jury fees. Should you choose to have a professional process server serve notices required by your case, we will charge you a fee for that person's work.
A handout on common additional charges incurred by landlords in residential evictions is located here, and gives a good example of the sort of expenses you can expect in many cases.
Hourly billing is very common in family law cases and hybrid cases. In hourly billing, you get charged whenever we do work on your case, including answering your emails, texts, or phone calls, and of course drafting work we do, or any time in court on your case. Our minimum billing increment is .2, equal to 12 minutes, and so this is the smallest increment you'll be charged for. To help manage costs, consider your questions before contacting us; sending us many texts throughout the course of representation with simple or repeated questions can get very expensive.
One of the best ways to preserve your retainer fund is to contact the secretary or legal assistant on your case for simple questions. Our attorneys are obliged to bill at the agreed rate, as per your retainer. Secretarial services are considerably cheaper than attorney services, and our support staff is more than capable of telling you when your next court date is, or how to fill out something like an Income and Expense declaration. If you ask one of our secretaries a question that really needs a lawyer to answer it, a note will be made in your file, and the lawyer on your case will contact you directly.
Another important consideration in hourly billing is that, in nearly every case, the answer we give to a question will not change if you ask again. We are more than willing to repeat ourselves if a point has not been understood, but we are not able to change, for example, court policies or the state of the law. If you ask the same question multiple times, you will be charged each time, and the answer will, almost certainly, not change.
As per the retainer, Verbeck Law does value billing, which means when we use one of our forms for your case, we will bill you at a set rate for that form. The set rate reflects the time it took to create that form in the first instance. This is a standard practice, and we believe our valuations of firm intellectual property is very reasonable.
Contingency billing refers to a case in which we've agreed to do the work without payment up front, in return for a portion of the total recovery. This is explained in your retainer; this policy section lays out a few extra details applicable to nearly every contingency case.
First, all Attorney’s fees earned and costs or expenses advanced by Attorneys shall be a lien on any settlement or judgment or Gross Recovery made or secured on behalf of Client. In the event Attorney and Client discontinue the relationship outlined in this agreement for any reason, the quantum meruit for Attorney’s services shall be the applicable contingency fee applied to the offer made most recently before the relationship is ended, or the applicable contingency fee applied to the value of the case that was developed through the course of litigation up to the point when the relationship ended, or Attorneys’ reasonable hourly rates multiplied by the time spent on the case, whichever is greatest.
Second, the relevant numbers for the hourly rates of attorneys and paralegals who have performed work on a client's case before withdrawal will be those in effect at the time of withdrawal. It is the client's responsibility to familiarize his or herself with the hourly rates in effect during their case.
As part of your retainer, you agree that, in the event of a dispute about billing, we will attempt to settle the issue amongst ourselves first, and if that fails, we will use the Attorney Fee Arbitration program run by the relevant State Bar. You agree to promptly notify us if you have any questions about billing, or if you dispute any entries on our invoices. In the absence of any timely objection from you, you agree that our billing is correct. Verbeck Law billing is available at any time, via your client portal.
Further Financial Policies
For an hourly case, you agree to pay money to us up front, which we will place into a trust account. We will bill out of this trust account as we do work, and, if your case concludes, you ask us to cease work, or we decline further representation, any unused money in the trust account will be returned to you. Note that, if we have filed in court already, we will have to file to be removed from the case, and will bill for that time. Similarly, if we are involved in negotiations with other parties in your case, we will bill for the time it takes us to notify these parties that we are no longer representing you.
For flat fee cases, your fee will generally be non-refundable. For document creation, the fee is always non-refundable, and for more complex cases, the refund due, if any, is equal to the fee minus the time we spent on the case, billed at our hourly rate at the time of termination. Flat fee cases are designed to offer excellent value, and generally the work we do in the initial stages of preparing for a flat fee case is equal to or greater than what the hours would cost, billed at our normal rate.
If your flat fee case involves further fees, for example the cost of a process server, then we will bill you for these fees directly. You agree to pay said fees promptly, and we may choose to discontinue work on your case if you are habitually slow in paying these fees. As per your retainer, we will tell you if and when these fees are required, and how much they will be.
Lastly, the flat fee that a landlord pays for an eviction case covers the eviction only, and an eviction in most counties we operate in requires that you are in compliance with the local rules on repairs, registration, and rent control where applicable. In many cities, landlords who are out of compliance cannot bring an eviction until they're in compliance, and the fee you cover us does not cover the legal work that may be required to bring you into compliance with local rules. Our quote assumes you're in compliance with the requirements for landlords in your area.
Verbeck Law does our best to make sure that you understand how billing works, and our goal is never to have to pursue a client for unpaid legal fees. However, law is unpredictable, and there are several situations in which your fee may be higher than you expect. One is emergency representation, in which you suddenly need much more help than expected. Another is court rescheduling or disruptions, which are increasingly common. If you have an hourly case, and we show up to represent you in court, be aware that the hearing may be rescheduled with little notice, or continued from a morning appearance to afternoon. You will be billed for the amount of time it actually takes us to complete the hearing, even if the delay was the court's fault, the opposing party's fault, or similar. We do not control the courts and can't prevent a judge from waiting to hear your case until the afternoon.
If you have an outstanding balance, whether because your trust fund ran out and more work needed to be done, or because your flat fee case involved additional fees that you haven't paid, we will bill you directly. We will present you with an invoice and several ways to pay, both in person or online. If, however, you have an outstanding balance that is greater than 90 days old, we reserve our right to pass this balance due to collections. We do our best to never have to do this, and we ask all clients to help us by promptly paying our bills. Part of being an affordable law firm is cost control, and we can't do our jobs if we're not paid.
Our basic communication policy is that we expect that you will respond quickly and accurately to anything we send you. This seems obvious, but experience shows that this can be a big problem in cases. If we've sent you an email asking for the exact address of a tenant in an eviction case, it's because we need that information to work on your case. You agree to respond to us in a reasonable amount of time, and to make the information you give us as accurate as possible. Remember, "I don't know" is a fine answer, and definitely better than a guess.
Communication Accuracy Disclaimer
Because of the problems that can occur when we're given inaccurate information, Verbeck Law explicitly denies any liability for damages caused by inaccurate information. For example, if you give us an incomplete address for your former spouse, and we have to re-serve important papers, you will be billed for all the time it took us to serve twice. Similarly, in eviction cases, all information on a complaint must be completely accurate. You will not be due any refund if, for example, you gave us a misspelling of the tenant's name, and the case is accordingly dismissed. We do not offer refunds when a case has been dismissed due to bad information, and we make every effort to assure information is correct, but some information is known only to you, and you hereby agree to make sure it's completely correct before passing it to us.
Document Retention Policies
Verbeck Law strives to be a green law firm, and to that end, many of the documents that we create, file, or process are never printed out. However, the court requires paper copies in most cases, and we're required to have paper copies to hand when making court appearances. Further, documents we get from opposing parties or otherwise are stored both electronically and in paper, and all of these paper documents together comprise a client's physical file. When your case is closed, our policy at present is to scan in the entire physical file, and then securely destroy the physical file. If your file contains any important original documents, of course, we will keep those, or send them directly back to you.
By having Verbeck Law handle your case, you agree that this is a reasonable and appropriate way to handle your physical file. Of course, if you want, we can mail your physical file to you after scanning, but because of the way we share documents with clients during a case, there generally won't be anything in your physical file you haven't already seen. If you want or need redundant copies, please let us know. Otherwise, we will handle the file via our normal process.