The one question every single person who ever contacts us looking for help is…
How much will this cost me?
It’s a reasonable question, and the unhelpful answer is that is almost impossible to tell (unless you have a smaller matter that we might handle on a flat-fee basis). Your case is unique, and what it will take to properly handle it will also be unique. But it’s not fair to you for us to leave that as the last word on the subject, and we do want to make sure you are as educated regarding pricing as possible. We have surveyed dozens of our former clients over the years, and over ninety (90%) percent of them report feeling that they paid as much or less than they expected to pay.
For starters, virtually every matter we handle will be billed by the hour, in tenths (0.1) of an hour, or six-minute increments. Currently, our hourly rates are:
- for Michael R. Dunham – $395.00 per hour
- for Stacy M. Dickson – $150.00 per hour
Let us just say, right up front – there are other lawyers who charge lower hourly rates. We don’t pretend to be the cheapest. We do believe, however, that we provide substantial value at these rates. You can hire a lawyer who charges half as much, but if it takes him three times as long to do the job, how did you do?
That, of course, begs the question – how many hours will it take to resolve my case? This is another difficult question to answer because it depends on how much work we’ll have to do, which in turn depends on many factors outside our (or your) control, including but not limited to:
- How difficult or complex are the issues?
- How many different parties are there?
- How many different things are there to fight over?
- What (or how much) is at stake?
- How hard will the other side fight?
The list of factors and questions to be considered is practically endless.
We will also bill you for certain types of expenses associated with your case. Unlike some firms, we will not bill you for small incidental expenses like postage and copy costs; nor will we bill you a monthly “administrative fee” or some such to cover such expenses. But for more expensive and/or irregular expenses like courier services, court reporting expenses (for depositions, hearings, etc.), or third-party costs for other professionals such as mediators or experts, we will advance those costs and bill you for them. Note that generally speaking, we will discuss such expenses with you before they are incurred, so that you aren’t surprised when you see your next bill.
We will also likely ask you for what we commonly refer to as a retainer. This is an advance deposit which will cover your fees and expenses as they are incurred. If your retainer runs low or is exhausted, you will be notified and we will ask you to replenish it. The size of the retainer will vary, and typically we do not like to quote retainers until after we’ve had a chance to review and discuss your case with you. Typical retainers for cases we take generally range from $1,500-$2,500 for a dispossessory action; $5,000-$7,500 for an uncontested divorce or a collection matter; or $10,000-$15,000 for a contested divorce or other complex litigation matter – but again, “your mileage may vary”, and we will quote a retainer to you after we have had a chance to evaluate your case and discuss the matter with you.
A couple of things to note about our retainers. Unlike some firms, we do not require “evergreen” retainers, i.e. retainers which must be kept to a minimum level on a monthly basis – we believe most people have enough trouble with finances without having to tie up thousands of dollars expected to sit idle for months or even years. In addition, very often the retainer should not be considered the full cost of your case; indeed, we regularly conclude cases without exhausting the retainer paid to us, in which case the balance is promptly refunded to the (hopefully very satisfied) client.
We do have a handful of matters we handle on a “flat fee” basis, in an effort to give you some predictability, and in some cases to make sure we keep certain matters affordable, including the following:
- You might be surprised at how often a pre-suit demand letter will be enough to make an opposing party pay what is owed or otherwise take action to resolve a disputed issue. We will send that letter for $495, which includes delivery via FedEx Express, and typically we will field a short email or phone call from the recipient without billing you for that call.
- Estate planning packages consisting of a basic last will and testament ($395), an advance directive for health care ($195), and a durable power of attorney ($195) are available for $695 for a single person, or $995 for a married couple. If you need only one or two of these instruments, the prices are as listed. Please note this covers a basic package only; if you have a more complex estate planning matter, we will refer you to one of our strategic partners. Please contact us for more information.
- We act as the registered agent and registered office with the Georgia Secretary of State’s office FOR FREE. We also handle annual registrations for our client entities at no cost, as a service to our clients – you will only be charged whatever the State charges us (typically $50 per year registered, or $75 if there is a late registration).
- If you have a company which has failed to keep up with its annual registrations, your entity may have been “administratively dissolved”, and we can help clean that issue up for you and bring your company back into good standing with the State. Again, we handle this service for free; you are only charged whatever the State charges us (usually this is a few hundred dollars).
- A basic real estate instrument such as a quit-claim deed can be prepared for $295, and if you ask us to have that instrument recorded in the county real estate records for you, we will do that for free.
- We will prepare a basic, but comprehensive prenuptial agreement for $1,500.
- We will prepare a basic, single-member limited liability company (LLC) – including trade name registration, preparation and filing of organizing documents, and obtaining state and federal tax identification numbers – for $750.
Hopefully you find this information helpful, but what we want to stress the most is – your case is as unique as you are, and the cost of having us (or any other lawyer) handle it will depend on a great many factors. The best way to determine how much you can expect to spend is to contact us so we can properly evaluate and discuss your case with you, without delay.