Can a lawyer charge more fees after giving a set price?

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Can a lawyer charge more fees after giving a set price?

I have just been recently divorce. I filed on 12/23 of last year andthe lawyer that I have hired said that the total cost for his services was $2655. He said that the only way the cost would go up is if my now ex- wife contests, which she did not. Also she agreed to pay for the divorce. Anyway, long story short, he charged extra for having my ex served. Now after the case is over he is telling me that their might be more charges to me. What can I do?

Asked on September 23, 2010 under Family Law, South Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

1) If you have a fee agreement or an engagment letter, that is a contract; you can enforce its terms. The attorney can only charge you more IF and to the extent that those additional charges are permitted under the agreement.

2) If you don't have a written agreement but believe that your attorney is overcharging you or charging you for improper things under an oral agreement or representation, your best bet may be to contact  your state bar associaton and explain that you have an attorney fee dispute; the bar tries to resolve these, such as by mediation. You could also go to court, if necessary, on an oral agreement, but it's more difficult (for obvious, lack-of-documentation-related reasons) than with a written agreement--which attorneys' clients should *always* make sure to get.


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