Hourly and Time-Based Billing in DUI Cases
Hourly billing amongst DUI lawyers is probably the least popular method currently in use. Hourly billing is just as it sounds. The lawyer and his or her staff keep track of the time they spend on your case and then bill you for it.
Typically, lawyers who bill for their time will set a minimum billing increment. 6 and 10 minute increments are the most commonly used. That means that if a lawyer spends 1 minute on your case (perhaps you call him for a quick question), you will be billed for the minimum increment even though you didn’t take up that much time.
Your lawyer charges $300.00 per hour. His minimum billing increment is 6 minutes (1/10th of an hour, or $30.00 chunks). You call him to make sure he got the emal you sent him. He pulls your electronic file up (30 seconds). He picks up the phone, and confirms that he got your email. The call lasts 30 seconds. Theoretically, you will get a bill for $30.00 for that call. If the lawyer had been billing in 10 minute increments, you would be billed $50.00 for the call. Not all lawyers would make a note of such a trivial thing, but with ttime-based billing, it is always a possibility.
How payments work:
Some DUI lawyers who bill hourly are comfortable submitting montly bills and then relying on their clients to pay. Most, however, realize that there is a high non-payment rate for DWI cases that are billed, and therefore ask for fee deposite, which they bill against as the work is done.
In most cases, the attorney will deposit a cost-advance into a trust account. They money is technically still yours until a bill is generated. When the bill is produced, the attorney will then draw down the trust account in the amount of the bill. When the amount in the trust account diminishes down to a certain level (usually specified in the fee agreement), then you will be obligated to deposit additional funds into the trust account.
When the case is over the the final bill is generated and the money withdrawn from the trust account, you will be entitled to have any remaining fees in that account returned to you.
Why most DUI lawyers don’t like hourly or time-based billing:
Billing for time is very limiting because a good DUI lawyer, being conscious of what it will cost you, may not invest as much time. It is also annoying to have to keep track of and document every minute of a lawyer’s day. Most lawyers would agree that their time is better spent practicing their profession rather than acting as a billing clerk. The vast majority of DUI lawyers in the United Sttates are either solo practitioners or members of small firms. These “little guys” who fight the big fights with the government in DUI courtrooms everyday are not well equiped to run a billing and collection practice in addition to their tending to their clients and fighting their courtroom battles.