Simpson v. Simpson: Upon the client’s request, the trial court took judicial notice of the reasonableness of the hourly rate charged by the counsel.
By Laura Morgan, Family Law Consultant
Simpson v. Simpson, No. COA09‑1131 (North Carolina Court of Appeals, January 18, 2011): Trial court considering mother’s request for attorney’s fees in child custody modification action could take judicial notice of the customary rates of local attorneys when considering the reasonableness of the hourly rate charged by mother’s counsel.
Laura Morgan is a Family Law Consultant. Laura is available for consultation, brief writing and research on family law issues throughout the country. She can be reached through her website. www.famlawconsult.com
The practice of law is stressful enough without having to endure sleepless nights and bar complaints over clients we do not like or clients who do not pay us. The proper selection of clients and careful setting of retainers can lead to better client relations and full payment of your fees. Remember that the practice of law is a business and like all businesses, cash flow can determine whether you stay in business. A professional degree does that guarantee that you are a good steward of business income and expenses. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and address them.
Keeping your fee agreement ethical begins before you take the client. Under current law, technically, the old rules of hourly rate multiplied by the number of hours reasonably expended still apply. But especially in family law cases, appellate courts are scrutinizing the size of the fee in relation to the size of the issues involved, and the trend of calling out and criticizing lawyers in family cases suggests that we might have to start rethinking the way in which we calculate our fees. Some lawyers do not like to contemplate this.