How much will my case cost?
Everyone wants to know this, but it's very hard to predict at the beginning of a case. I charge for my time, and the amount of time that will go into a case depends on the facts, as well as what you and the opposing party choose to do. Call me for a free consultation, and I will try to give you a rough estimate once I know more about your case.
What is your hourly rate?
I charge $300 per hour for my time, $250 per hour for associate attorneys and $150 per hour for my paralegals. Generally, experienced family law attorneys in Honolulu charge between $225-$325 per hour. With over 30 years of experience and the fact that I am Hawaii's only board-certified specialist in family law, I believe this is a reasonable rate.
Why shouldn't I hire a less expensive attorney, or handle my own case?
In law, as in all other aspects of life, you usually get what you pay for. Some "bargain" divorce lawyers are really just assisting the do-it-yourselfer. They provide you with minimal assistance filling out family court forms, but take no responsibility for actually moving your case through the court. An uncontested divorce with no children, no real property, no business interests and no retirement is something that probably can be handled on a do-it-yourself basis, if you have the time. I can save a few dollars by tuning up my own car, but I prefer to have a professional mechanic to do it quickly, efficiently and well. Many of my clients find that it's worth it to pay a professional to handle their divorce, even if it's a "simple" case.
Why don't you charge a flat fee?
Flat fees are appropriate for cases that are always the same and require the same amount of time. Lawyers who draft wills and deeds, for example, often charge a flat fee for each type of document that the client requests. Litigation in Family Court is challenging and complex. One child custody case may be settled with a few hours of attorney time, while another may require a two-day trial. Charging the same amount for both cases wouldn't make sense.
Why don't you charge a contingent fee?
A contingent fee means that the lawyer agrees to take a percentage of whatever he recovers for the client as his fee. Personal injury attorneys frequently advertise "no fee if no recovery" and take one-third of their client's settlement. Except for collection of past child support, lawyers are prohibited by the Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct from charging a contingent fee in a family law matter.
What is a retainer?
A retainer is a deposit against the fees that you will incur. At the beginning of the case, the client makes a deposit into a client trust account to pay for the anticipated work. I am paid for the work I do out of your retainer. It isn't my money until I've earned it and sent you a statement showing you what I did. If I finish the case and there are funds remaining in your client trust account, I refund them to you. The term "retainer" is also used to refer to the written contract to provide legal services, called a "Retainer Agreement."
What is the difference between fees and costs?
Fees are a charge for the time of attorneys and para-professional staff. Costs are out-of-pocket expenses incurred. Costs include court filing fees, service fees, copying costs, and postage. In complex cases, costs can include payment for expert witnesses, private investigators, off-island travel, and forensic testing.
Do you have a payment plan?
I am a small business, not a financial institution. In order to provide quality legal services to all my clients and stay in business at the same time, each case must carry itself financially. I do accept credit card payment, and can sometimes help clients to find other ways to finance my services.
How often will I get a bill?
I send a detailed statement every month. The statement shows, by date, what was done, who on my staff did it, and how much time it took. The statement also shows any costs paid, the remaining balance in the client trust account, and any payment received during the preceding month.