Brief Fact Summary. Respondent is appealing a public reprimand imposed regarding allegedly excessive billing in his work on a DUI case that he had warned the client was outside of his practice area.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Determining reasonableness of an attorney’s hourly fees.
Issue. Was Respondent’s fee in this matter “clearly excessive”?
Held. Yes. Although it was reasonable of Respondent in this case to take the case even if he was not experienced in the relevant law, it was not reasonable of him to expect the client to pay for his “education” in this field of law and then charge him nearly ten times more than an experienced attorney would have charged. Although the client consented to the terms presented by Respondent, Respondent never gave him a proper estimate of how much the case might cost and he had no reason to believe that the total bill would be anything approaching $50,000-especially since the average case in this area bills about 30 hours.
Discussion. Although an attorney may bill a client for “learning time,” an attorney should not expect his client to pay for his education in fields of law to an extent that this becomes an unreasonable burden. A lawyer should generally not accept employment regarding any area of the law in which he is not properly qualified.