Maryland law prohibits a lawyer from charging or collecting an “unreasonable” fee. Factors to be considered in determining the reasonableness of a fee include:
(1) the time and skill required
(2) the fee charged by other lawyers
(3) the lawyer’s experience, reputation, and ability
Lawyers defending a client in court can charge hourly for their services or on a fixed fee. Each kind of fee has a set of advantages and disadvantages.
Traditionally, a client paying an hourly provides the lawyer with a sum of money that the lawyer then places in an escrow account. As the lawyer performs the agreed legal services, the client is issued a billing statement showing the hours worked. The lawyer then transfer the applicable funds from the escrow account. As needed to fulfill the agreement, the client must then maintain the escrow account with additional payments.
The advantage of the hourly fee is that the lawyer can only charge for services performed. If, for example, the prosecution realizes at an early juncture that a witness or evidence is missing, the time expenditure of the defense attorney will generate a smaller fee. Similarly, a smaller fee would result if a lawyer only spends the hour or two needed to arrange a plea.
The disadvantage for the client derives from the obligation to pay an amount of fees that can create substantial economic hardship. The strain of legal fees that exceed the lawyer’s original estimate can cause a client to question the lawyer’s motivation in recommending or performing certain actions.
With a fixed fee, the lawyer sets a specific fee for a specific set of services. While the advantage is that the client knows the definite amount of the lawyer’s fee, difficulties can arise in defining the scope of the services that the lawyer has agreed to render.
In defending a client from criminal or other charges, a lawyer can take any combination of several paths. The nature and extent of the effort depends on the lawyer’s skill and experience but also the lawyer’s dedication to the client.
Ultimately, both a fixed fee and an hourly fee rely on the lawyer’s integrity and talent. For my clients, I provide the choice of an hourly or fixed fee. Regardless of the fee arrangement, I maintain communication with my clients and provide the best defense that I can devise, within the law and the ethical standards with which I comport myself.
My fee are likely not the lowest in the State. My commitment is to make my services of the greatest value.