Williams, Birnberg & Andersen, L.L.P. is committed to providing quality legal services in a professional, ethical, timely, empathetic, and affordable manner. We realize, however, that we are only as good as you, our client, thinks us to be. That is why we strive to accomplish our mission in a way that clients perceive to be both competent and fairly priced. We understand that your satisfaction with our law firm depends on the totality of the services you receive from us — from the courtesy and helpfulness of our staff, to the responsiveness and skill of the lawyers and legal assistants with whom you are working, to the reasonableness and (where possible) predictability of the fee you are charged. Over the years we have learned that this result is most often achieved when there are good communications between client and attorney from the outset, especially regarding common expectations, and a clear understanding from the beginning of the relationship of fees and billing procedures. The following statement of policies concerning fees, expenses, and billing procedures is intended to help foster and maintain such a positive and hopefully long-term client-attorney relationship.
Unless otherwise agreed, the firm ordinarily invoices clients monthly for legal services rendered and expenses incurred on a client’s behalf, and expects payment of the full amount of each invoice within thirty (30) days after the date of the invoice. Invoices which have not been paid in full within thirty (30) days after the date of the invoice will be subject to a three percent (3%) late fee to compensate the firm for the administrative expense of processing late or past due payments and bear interest at the rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum on the unpaid portion, compounded monthly, commencing on the day that is thirty (30) days after the date of the invoice.
Fees for Legal Services
The firm’s fees for legal services rendered are typically computed on an hourly fee basis. The legal fees charged by the firm in such an arrangement are based upon the customary hourly rates for each lawyer, legal assistant, and law clerk performing services on a client’s behalf, in effect at the time the services are rendered. The firm retains the right to change the hourly rates from time to time. The firm will endeavor to notify the client in advance that an hourly rate is being changed, but failure to do so will not prevent the firm from charging for services at the changed rate nor justify a client’s failure to pay the full amount of each invoice submitted.
Out-Of-Pocket Costs and Expenses
In addition to hourly or other fees for legal services rendered, the client will be billed, and expected either to pay directly to the provider, or reimburse the firm where the firm advances the costs, for all out-of- pocket costs, fees, charges, and expenses incurred in the course of providing legal services on the client’s behalf. Such expenses could include, but are not limited to, charges for filing fees, fees to file pleadings electronically, recording and certifying documents charges, transcripts, real estate and other appraisers, title opinions or reports, investigators and investigations, expert witnesses and consultants (including accountants, certified public accountants, economists, medical experts, and others), mediators or arbitrators fees, translators charges, computerized legal research, long distance telephone charges, charges for mileage, travel expenses, lodging and meals when out of town on the client’s behalf, parking expenses, photocopying and other reproduction costs and charges, document imaging, document scanning, printing and binding charges, costs for trial or case notebooks, graphics, simulations, animations, and re-creations, trial supplies, visual aid presentations equipment or video deposition playback charges, technology experts or services, facsimile charges, messenger and delivery services, overtime clerical and secretarial assistance, air conditioning charges and after hours usage of building, and extraordinary postage and mailing charges, including certified mail charges. Substantial anticipated expenses such as travel expenses or mediation fees are expected to be paid by the client in advance. Travel expenses are charged to the client based upon reasonable expenses actually incurred, but will include best available class of travel, meals and accommodations. Reimbursement for out-of-pocket costs and expenses not paid in advance will be due and payable in Houston, Harris County, Texas within thirty (30) days after the date of an invoice from the firm including a charge for such expenses.
Retainers and IOLTA Account
Clients are ordinarily required to deposit a sum of money with the firm as a retainer. That retainer will be deposited into the firm’s Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account (hereinafter "IOLTA") account. The IOLTA account is an escrow account which is non-interest bearing to the client. The interest earned by the IOLTA account will be remitted to the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation to fund legal services for the poor. By requesting the firm to provide legal services and tendering the retainer, the client expressly consents to the deposit of such funds into the IOLTA account, realizing that any interest thereon will be remitted in that fashion, rather than to the client or the firm. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the retainer will remain on deposit with the firm until termination of the firm’s representation of the client on all matters it may then be handling. Upon the occurrence of that event, the firm will promptly refund to the client the full amount remaining on deposit on behalf of the client in the firm’s IOLTA account (but without interest); provided, however, if any sum of money is due to the firm at the time the retainer deposit would otherwise be returnable, the firm may apply the retainer to the unpaid balance owed to the firm, to the extent necessary to satisfy that indebtedness. Unless otherwise agreed in writing, the client is expected timely to pay the full amount of each invoice submitted, notwithstanding the fact that there is a balance in the retainer account at the time.
Funds Received on Client's Behalf
Except where statutes provide otherwise, funds recovered or received by the firm on a client’s behalf will also be placed in the firm’s IOLTA account. The funds will remain in that account for as long as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances then existing to disburse the funds appropriately.
Estimates of Fees
In situations where a client requests an estimate of the fee and/or costs which will be incurred in a specific or general matter, the firm will attempt to provide such an estimate. However, the fees charged by the firm are almost exclusively dependent upon the amount of actual time spent in regard to a particular client’s representation. Consequently, it may be difficult, if not impossible, for an exact estimate of total fees and costs to be made. In this situation, the client should candidly discuss any limits he, she, or it may wish to impose upon the time charges and fees to be incurred on the client’s behalf.
Arbitration of Disputes
The Houston Bar Association provides a service whereby a dispute between an attorney and a client concerning attorney’s fees can be resolved for free through binding arbitration before a panel of three arbitrators, at least one of whom must be a non-lawyer layperson. Either the lawyer or the client can request such arbitration, but both must agree to in before arbitration can occur. It is the policy of the law firm to agree to binding arbitration of fee disputes through the HBA fee dispute arbitration committee whenever requested to do so by the client and to seek such arbitration itself instead of resorting to litigation to resolve such disputes, unless the client objects to arbitration. The firm will provide to the client information about HBA fee dispute arbitration upon request or the client may obtain such information directly from the Houston Bar Association.
Returning and/or Retaining Files
Upon termination of the client-attorney relationship, the firm will return the papers and property that the client has furnished to us. If the client wishes copies of pleadings or other files, you or your new attorney can arrange to make copies of all such papers that he/she believe are necessary to continue representation. The client will be required to pay any cost of such copying. The firm reserves the right to require the client also to pay for services rendered to facilitate an orderly turnover of matters in process at the time of termination.
In most cases, client files are retained for two years after the firm’s representation on a particular matter has been completed and thereafter they are subject to being discarded, except for information that the attorneys believe we might want to use in the future. The Client must, however, promptly pick up all materials furnished to the firm and, despite the firm’s ordinary custom of retaining files for two years, the firm shall have no responsibility for retaining a client’s information after any case or other matter on which we have been working has been closed or finished for forty-five (45) days.
If You Become Dissatisfied
Should you ever become displeased or dissatisfied with any aspect of the legal representation provided by the firm, you should immediately notify the firm’s managing partner (currently, Gerald M. Birnberg) of that dissatisfaction or of any question you may have that has not been adequately or satisfactorily addressed by the attorney with whom you are primarily working. The State Bar of Texas also investigates claims involving professional misconduct. While dissatisfaction with a lawyer’s services may not amount to, arise from, or involve professional misconduct, the State Bar’s Office of General Counsel (1-800-932-1900) will provide information about filing a complaint in cases where a lawyer has engaged in professional misconduct.