Hourly Fee

While the hourly fee has gotten a bad reputation, it owes its legacy to the fact that it’s a very effective form of billing for legal services. In theory, a client should be paying its attorney only for those services that are performed, which means the hourly fee guarantees you get what you pay for. Unfortunately, big firm mentality and lawyer abuses have corrupted this form of billing, and there are thousands and thousands of situations where attorneys have over-billed their clients.

We constantly see examples of over charging law firms in our practice when an opponents attorney fee total is revealed to us in litigation. Very frequently when litigating a case or a motion, our adversaries legal fees will be two, three or four times the amount we charged our client for the same task. I can’t believe how unnecessary some of the charges are.


In many instances, the hourly fee can be a successful billing method. If you want ongoing general representation, or you need help in ongoing litigation, the hourly fee may be the perfect fit. The billing method itself is not fundamentally flawed; rather, it has been subject to abuses by attorneys who lack good faith, overcharge for work, and/or fail to keep their clients informed about billing standards and procedures.

Smiley Law Firm has installed a number of precautions to ensure the hourly fee is charged to our clients appropriately, including the following:

  • 0.1 Minimum Time. Many firms have a minimum charge of .2, .3 or even .5 hours, which means you will pay for 12, 18, 24, or 30 minutes of work even if the task took just one minute.
  • Blended Rate. Blended Rate means that all of our attorneys have a single rate. Many firms create a pyramid of rates based on lawyer seniority. At those firms, most tasks will be performed by an associate and then reviewed by one or more partners. The client ends up getting charged on top of getting charged on top of getting charged. At Smiley Law, all of our attorneys charge the same rate to keep billing simple, and we don’t pile attorneys on a case.
  • Consistent Billing. Ever wait months before receiving your attorney’s bill, and then feel sticker shock when it comes in the mail? We bill you on the same day each and every month, which means you always know how much you are spending. You won’t be surprised by large bills, and you’ll be able to manage your legal budget as your case moves forward.
  • Electronic Invoicing and Online Billing Center. What you spend with Smiley Law Firm will never be a secret. You will be provided a login to our online billing center where you will have 24/7 access to all of your invoices and billed time.
  • Detailed Invoices. You’ll never be unsure about the time charged to you. Every task we perform for our clients is recorded in detail in our case management system, and these task notes are the items that appear on your bill. You’ll never get a charge from us that is only described as, “email,” “phone call,” “research,” “drafting pleading,” or some other vaguely described item. Our charges will be very clear about these events, describing who the phone call or email was to and what was said, what was researched and learned, what court document was drafted, etc.

If you’re ready to experience a different level of legal service and the hourly fee is right for you, schedule an initial consultation with us.

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