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Fuming - and need advice

diamondseeker2006

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I went to the eldercare attorney with my mom to have all that paperwork drawn up several years ago. At the time, my Dad had dementia which eventually turned into Alzheimers, and he died 7 years ago. Then my mother had a major stroke 5 years ago and has been in a nursing home ever since. So it was a VERY good thing they had all that in place because my siblings and I DID have to take over everything...finances, selling the house, her healthcare, etc. It is crazy for everyone not to do this. You just have the spouse as primary POA and then the child (or whoever) as secondary in case the parents are both incapacitated. There is no danger of a child taking over the parents' affairs as long as one of the parents is of sound mind and health. It would have cost a LOT more money to hire attorneys to establish us as guardians or whatever after the fact than it would to do the POA and other end of life paperwork in advance.

I will tell you one thing, though. After my mother's stroke, I sent a couple of emails to the elderlaw attorney who actually knew my mother to ask some very basic questions that basically needed one sentence answers. In fact, I would say that her replies probably totalled no more than 5 minutes of her time. In my mind, I kind of expected they might charge something, like maybe $50-100 for each email, and that was fine. But I got the bill a few weeks later and it was $700!!! And no, fees were not discussed in advance. But I did not expect advice for free. I just made an error not have the first question be how much the fees were for emails!!! So yes, they can and do charge for advice that the client has not signed for in advance.

From that point forward, I never contacted her again. I read online and went through applying for veteran's widow benefits, selling her home, and eventually applying for Medicaid with no help, once all her money had been eaten up by the nursing home.

Good luck! I think you have a good chance since they advertised the initial consultation being free!
 

Rockinruby

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CJ2008|1455990544|3993326 said:
Rockinruby said:
CJ, I'm so sorry this happened especially when you were trying to be proactive for your family members. :wall: It's extremely frustrating!

I don't know if this will help, but each state usually has a (attorney) fee arbitration board. I'm not sure where you are, but a quick online search should help you find the necessary form for your state. First call or email the attorney/office (I think you have done this already) and hopefully they will chalk it up to miscommunication. If they don't drop it then write a formal letter stating you were not aware, were not informed, etc. In the meantime check to see how quickly you have to submit the form for fee arbitration. (Most states 20-30 days). The arbitration board websites usually have a good deal of info. :read: Some states handle disputes of this nature so check to see what is available to you.

Also, I think the free consult vs charging is a pretty hot topic for some attorneys. It needs to be very clear what the consult covers, but when you get into specific questions they want to charge. I can certainly understand billing for their time. However, from what you've described it doesn't seem as if they did due diligence. They should have let you know that they were starting to get into areas that they bill for. It really stinks! :angryfire:

Hugs! :wavey:

Hi RR :wavey:

Yes I've called them and emailed them a couple of days ago - no response yet.

I will definitely look into how quickly I need to submit that form in case I end up needing to go that route so I have it ready in my calendar.

I agree the free consult versus charging for a consult is a hot topic (probably for any type of "consultant" really). The person *MOST* clear on what's too specific is the lawyer / consultant - and then it's very easy (and 100% fair and proper) to say "that's actually something I can't answer without charging you a formal consultation fee." At no point during the conversation did the attorney say anything even remotely close to that or talk about fees at all - except towards the end of the conversation when I asked what their fee would be if my parents agreed to move forward - both to draft documents and then for advice on specific matters.

I'm curious as to how they will respond. I really hope it's just an oversight that can be easily taken care of. They are clearly in the wrong since they never alerted you to charges, etc. I really wish you didn't have to deal with the headache of it CJ. :wall: Big hugs! :wavey:
 

missy

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diamondseeker2006|1456023144|3993514 said:
I went to the eldercare attorney with my mom to have all that paperwork drawn up several years ago. At the time, my Dad had dementia which eventually turned into Alzheimers, and he died 7 years ago. Then my mother had a major stroke 5 years ago and has been in a nursing home ever since. So it was a VERY good thing they had all that in place because my siblings and I DID have to take over everything...finances, selling the house, her healthcare, etc. It is crazy for everyone not to do this. You just have the spouse as primary POA and then the child (or whoever) as secondary in case the parents are both incapacitated. There is no danger of a child taking over the parents' affairs as long as one of the parents is of sound mind and health. It would have cost a LOT more money to hire attorneys to establish us as guardians or whatever after the fact than it would to do the POA and other end of life paperwork in advance.

I will tell you one thing, though. After my mother's stroke, I sent a couple of emails to the elderlaw attorney who actually knew my mother to ask some very basic questions that basically needed one sentence answers. In fact, I would say that her replies probably totalled no more than 5 minutes of her time. In my mind, I kind of expected they might charge something, like maybe $50-100 for each email, and that was fine. But I got the bill a few weeks later and it was $700!!! And no, fees were not discussed in advance. But I did not expect advice for free. I just made an error not have the first question be how much the fees were for emails!!! So yes, they can and do charge for advice that the client has not signed for in advance.

From that point forward, I never contacted her again. I read online and went through applying for veteran's widow benefits, selling her home, and eventually applying for Medicaid with no help, once all her money had been eaten up by the nursing home.

Good luck! I think you have a good chance since they advertised the initial consultation being free!

Wow, DiamondSeeker, I'm sorry you had this happen especially at a particularly stressful time in your life and I think this is unethical behavior on the part of that attorney. I just told my dh (who is an attorney though not that kind of attorney) and he said he agrees with me. It is unethical and he would even go as far as to report it to the board. However I told him you had not discussed fees beforehand and he said it is still unethical and immoral for her to charge you for the whole hour though not having discussed it with her beforehand he wouldn't report it to the board. He said know what you have to pay upfront and then if they overkill you it is fraud. Pure and simple. So in this case you had not discussed the fees so he wouldn't report it though it is still unethical that the attorney did this to you.

CJ I know you don't mind the threadjack and thanks for being OK with me adding my thoughts to DS. :wavey:
Hoping your issue is resolved to your complete satisfaction Monday morning.
 

MarionC

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I once got billed for a phone conversation with a lawyer to discuss her bill!
I called the head of the company and complained - and the bill was dropped.

It seems that someone at the company doesn't understand the company policy.
Give 'em hell &

I'm glad you are not paying.
 

CJ2008

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Rockinruby said:
I'm curious as to how they will respond. I really hope it's just an oversight that can be easily taken care of. They are clearly in the wrong since they never alerted you to charges, etc. I really wish you didn't have to deal with the headache of it CJ. :wall: Big hugs! :wavey:

Thanks RR. We'll see what happens - keeping my fingers crossed.

missy said:
Wow, DiamondSeeker, I'm sorry you had this happen especially at a particularly stressful time in your life and I think this is unethical behavior on the part of that attorney. I just told my dh (who is an attorney though not that kind of attorney) and he said he agrees with me. It is unethical and he would even go as far as to report it to the board. However I told him you had not discussed fees beforehand and he said it is still unethical and immoral for her to charge you for the whole hour though not having discussed it with her beforehand he wouldn't report it to the board. He said know what you have to pay upfront and then if they overkill you it is fraud. Pure and simple. So in this case you had not discussed the fees so he wouldn't report it though it is still unethical that the attorney did this to you.

CJ I know you don't mind the threadjack and thanks for being OK with me adding my thoughts to DS. :wavey:
Hoping your issue is resolved to your complete satisfaction Monday morning.

DiamondSeeker - that's the general advice out there - don't wait until you NEED to do something. If you wait until you need to do something you'll already be under stress, it's all going to feel that much more overwhelming, and it's just more difficult to make clear, sound, and rational decisions and choices. And if you're doing things under a rush basis you're probably going to pay more too. In general, I don't need anybody to tell me this because I am a planner by nature - and I understand this by instinct - but some of the specific issues as far as elderly parents I "realized" from doing research (I guess researching is part of planning too.)

It was really, really risky on your part to send specific questions to an attorney without knowing EXACTLY what they were going to charge you and assuming the amount on your own. That said, I still 100% think that the attorney should have responded with "the answers to those questions will be billed at x rate, please let us know this is OK with you" BEFORE answering. It doesn't matter whether it was $70 or $700 - if there's going to be a charge they should warn you first - it's just the right thing to do (aside from ensuring that the client can't then dispute the charge). I have to admit, right or wrong I would have disputed the amount - not because I don't think the attorney DESERVES the $700 (it's about knowledge, not time spent) - but the amount should have been made clear up front, even if you sent in the questions without asking for fees.

Thanks for the good luck wishes :) - we'll see what happens.

(ETA OMG missy just realized I never acknowledged your threadjack comment! hi back :wavey: Not to threadjack myself lol but this is the kind of thing that ADDS to the discussion and in my mind I learned something from it even if it's not specific to MY situation. I think this whole threadjack thing is hard to explain haha)
 

CJ2008

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Jimmianne|1456062891|3993634 said:
I once got billed for a phone conversation with a lawyer to discuss her bill!
I called the head of the company and complained - and the bill was dropped.

It seems that someone at the company doesn't understand the company policy.
Give 'em hell &

I'm glad you are not paying.

ahahah really?

Charging for discussing a bill I had questions on would feel to me like the attorney just didn't value me as a client overall even though I TOTALLY get charging for your time and expertise.

I'm not paying 1 cent of this bill but I just hope it goes easy.
 

telephone89

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UGH I'm so mad for you! That is outrageous!

I think you should absolutely send a follow up email. I usually reply with the email chain and include something like 'I haven't heard back to my email below, sent on Feb 5th, please advise'.

Hopefully this gets solved quickly!
 

diamondseeker2006

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Thanks, Missy and CJ! What I learned from that experience is never to talk to anyone beyond the secretary without asking fees upfront. Once the attorney speaks, the meter is ticking, and you'd better know the cost for a consultation in advance. My feeling about those simple questions was that it would take far less time to ask a couple of one sentence questions by email rather than talking on the phone which inevitably would take more time. Everything was done in advance to make the transition as easy as possible, but you can never plan in advance for the situation that causes you to suddenly have to make use of all the documents that were prepared in advance. A stroke changes things overnight, and there were new things I had to ask such as, could our mother give her car to our brother without it causing a problem should she ever qualify for Medicaid? That required a one sentence answer, basically. It just sort of amazes me that some people honestly believe their time and advice is so much more valuable than others.
 

CJ2008

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telephone89|1456073483|3993670 said:
UGH I'm so mad for you! That is outrageous!

I think you should absolutely send a follow up email. I usually reply with the email chain and include something like 'I haven't heard back to my email below, sent on Feb 5th, please advise'.

Hopefully this gets solved quickly!

thanks telephone89 - I plan on following up today for sure.

diamondseeker2006 said:
Thanks, Missy and CJ! What I learned from that experience is never to talk to anyone beyond the secretary without asking fees upfront. Once the attorney speaks, the meter is ticking, and you'd better know the cost for a consultation in advance. My feeling about those simple questions was that it would take far less time to ask a couple of one sentence questions by email rather than talking on the phone which inevitably would take more time. Everything was done in advance to make the transition as easy as possible, but you can never plan in advance for the situation that causes you to suddenly have to make use of all the documents that were prepared in advance. A stroke changes things overnight, and there were new things I had to ask such as, could our mother give her car to our brother without it causing a problem should she ever qualify for Medicaid? That required a one sentence answer, basically. It just sort of amazes me that some people honestly believe their time and advice is so much more valuable than others.

Yes I get what you're saying - there's only so much you can plan for. But that is a good rule of thumb to follow - secretary only. And if you will be speaking with an attorney before the conversation begins - whether by email or phone - state what your understanding is "I am under the impression this will a 100% free consultation" or "I am under the impression this will be billed at x rate" or "if this is going to be more than $50 please let me know how much more" etc. Make it airtight and avoid any surprises.
 

missy

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CJ, any updates?
 

CJ2008

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Hi missy :)

I sent a follow-up email today - the email was basically a repeat of what I had already said in my previous email to them, but this time like rainwood recommended I mentioned the not having any warning we were entering into billable time, specifically asked them to waive the invoice, and cc'd the lawyer.

I waited a full week because I was afraid of saying more than I needed to, in case they had already decided to write it off and just never told me.

But when I saw this morning that I still had nothing from them, I knew it was time.

We'll see if they respond. I still have this low level anxiety lurking in the background expecting them to escalate.

Thanks for thinking of me and I'll update as soon as I hear. :)
 

Rockinruby

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CJ2008|1456592431|3996604 said:
Hi missy :)

I sent a follow-up email today - the email was basically a repeat of what I had already said in my previous email to them, but this time like rainwood recommended I mentioned the not having any warning we were entering into billable time, specifically asked them to waive the invoice, and cc'd the lawyer.

I waited a full week because I was afraid of saying more than I needed to, in case they had already decided to write it off and just never told me.

But when I saw this morning that I still had nothing from them, I knew it was time.

We'll see if they respond. I still have this low level anxiety lurking in the background expecting them to escalate.

Thanks for thinking of me and I'll update as soon as I hear. :)

Good luck CJ! :wavey:
 

CJ2008

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Well guys.

They're not dropping it.

I just spoke with the admin person who told me the lawyer asked her to call on her behalf and explain to me that it is not their policy to offer complimentary sessions on the medicaid portion of their business. That the complimentary consultation was for Mr. x only and not the lawyer I spoke with.

Even though I explained that it was never made clear to me that if I spoke with Ms. x there was going to be a charge she said that I have to pay it.

My mind is racing right now - I cannot believe this.

I don't know if to ask to speak to the lawyer I don't know what to do.

Can you please help me and help me think through what to do next. My mind is racing I have my heart in my throat and I feel somewhat paralyzed. Honestly I feel like crying.

ETA to add insult to injury when I told the admin that I had really liked this lawyer, but now even if I were to move forward with seeking help, I would not want to use their office, the admin kept trying to sell me on how good this lawyer is. I mean really?
 

PintoBean

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Call her back and tell her to please have the response in writing as a reply to your e-mailed inquiry. None of this oral response to your e-mail nonsense. Let them know you need the written response for your RECORDS.

let's see if this let's them read between the lines that you are prepping your paperwork and getting ready to start up some kind of legal action...
 

missy

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CJ! I am so sorry honey and I know you are very upset and rightfully so. Deep breath and it's going to be OK. First of all refuse to pay. Period. You do NOT have a signed fee agreement with them and they billed you for something you had no clue they would be billing you for so IMO it's a bait and switch and not legal. AND let them know you *are* reporting them to their supervising board.
(((Hugs))).
 

missy

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Spoke with my dh and he said report them to the ethics committee at the state Bar association. Highly likely you will never hear from them again. Good luck CJ!
 

CJ2008

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Thanks guys.

Pinto - you are so right - i probably should have never called them. let them say what they need to say in writing. i was so uncomfortable on the phone because i feel like they are going to try to trip me up.

missy - I did just call the bar - they said to mail the lawyer a certified letter return receipt requested. He said i could also try to talk to the lawyer directly if i feel comfortable doing that (but he said still follow up with letter). There's a part of me that thinks that perhaps once i speak with her she will remember the conversation and realize that it was a mistake. But the other part of me feels scared that i'm giving her too much credit and she too will try to trip me up.
 

PintoBean

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Don't kick yourself for calling! They weren't responsive to your e-mail, so you were exploring different communication channels. I think they are only responsive by phone BECAUSE they don't want the paper trail.
 

rainwood

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I'm so sorry they are being such pills. I'm really surprised they are continuing to pursue this as they are on shaky ground. And I can't believe the admin tried to get you to retain them. That takes a lot of gall. At least you know who not to hire now!

Send the letter as the bar association recommended and tell them in the letter that the bar ethics committee advised you to do so. No more verbal communications. Also copy the ethics committee so the law firm knows you've done that. Most firms do not want to tangle with the state bar so this should settle the matter.

Take a deep breath. You've given them the benefit of the doubt, done everything right, and now if they get in trouble, it's on them.
 

CJ2008

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PintoBean said:
Don't kick yourself for calling! They weren't responsive to your e-mail, so you were exploring different communication channels. I think they are only responsive by phone BECAUSE they don't want the paper trail.

thanks Pinto - it really gave me some comfort to hear you say not to kick myself for calling (silly I know, but it did). I just feel like she probably tried to hear certain words that they can later say I "admitted" something verbally.

rainwood|1456862760|3998037 said:
I'm so sorry they are being such pills. I'm really surprised they are continuing to pursue this as they are on shaky ground. And I can't believe the admin tried to get you to retain them. That takes a lot of gall. At least you know who not to hire now!

Send the letter as the bar association recommended and tell them in the letter that the bar ethics committee advised you to do so. No more verbal communications. Also copy the ethics committee so the law firm knows you've done that. Most firms do not want to tangle with the state bar so this should settle the matter.

Take a deep breath. You've given them the benefit of the doubt, done everything right, and now if they get in trouble, it's on them.

thank you tons rainwood - do I *expand* on the explanation by mentioning any of the conversation / scuffle with the initial receptionist - or do i basically repeat what i've been saying only (that it was NOT made clear to me and that I went into the conversation thinking it was a complimentary consult.) I hate to leave out details but that's just it - it's in those details that they're saying I must have know/was clearly told. :/
 

PintoBean

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Hi CJ2008. Do you have a loupetroop listing and an e-mail address you'd feel comfortable linking with the loupetroop account? If not, could you create one? That way, people could e-mail you directly if they want to get into specifics with you. :)
 

missy

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rainwood|1456862760|3998037 said:
I'm so sorry they are being such pills. I'm really surprised they are continuing to pursue this as they are on shaky ground. And I can't believe the admin tried to get you to retain them. That takes a lot of gall. At least you know who not to hire now!

Send the letter as the bar association recommended and tell them in the letter that the bar ethics committee advised you to do so. No more verbal communications. Also copy the ethics committee so the law firm knows you've done that. Most firms do not want to tangle with the state bar so this should settle the matter.


Take a deep breath. You've given them the benefit of the doubt, done everything right, and now if they get in trouble, it's on them.

CJ do this and you will be fine. The firm you are dealing with would be crazy to pursue after you take these measures. They are clearly in the wrong and just hoped you wouldn't make an issue of it. That's what they were counting on and for all the people they do this too many are just going to pay the wrongful fee so imagine how lucrative their unethical behavior is for them. I'm hoping that this will stop them in their tracks and also prevent this from doing the same to others. Firms like this give attorneys a bad name. :nono:
 

rainwood

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CJ

In the letter, just recount: 1) the facts of the initial conversation; 2) that no one told you that talking about Medicaid or the switch in lawyers would result in a fee; 3) that you would have stopped the conversation if you had been told because you were only doing background research for your parents; 4) that you've tried to explain this both in writing and over the phone so they would cancel the bill; 5) that the firm's insistence on payment prompted you to call the bar association ethics committee; 6) that the bar association advised you to send this letter which is why you've copied them; and 7) that you expect the firm to confirm in writing that they have cancelled the bill because of their lack of accurate communication.
 

momhappy

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Oh, cj, I just read your update :(( I agree with the other advice - keep it all factual, formal, and in writing here on out. Don't give up - I think you can still beat this! Wishing you lots of luck and I'll be waiting for your next updates.
 

MollyMalone

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Ye gods, I can't believe that they (or least the office manger) is sticking to their guns :angryfire: Please don't beat yourself up, you did nothing wrong! (and certainly have not hurt your cause)

To rainwood's terrific list of "bullet points", I'd add, for additional context, the fact that the first and only bill you received was dated February X -- 4 months (or whatever the lapse of time, more than 3 months?) after you spoke with the attorney.
 

CJ2008

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thank you thank you thank you all so much

Pinto - I don't have a loupetroop account what is that? (I hope I don't get kicked off PS for not knowing what that is ::) and you're so kind to offer even more help than you guys have already. Let's see how it goes after I get the letter sent out honestly hopefully the letter will take care of it and I won't have to bother anybody with specifics)

missy - you know what's worse - I feel saddened by this whole situation. I had such a good rapport with the attorney (I think I mentioned it even got emotional) I walked away thinking "mom/dad could actually see past "lawyer" with this lady and might be receptive to her advice." I really was shopping for a lawyer and not for advice. It saddens me because I thought she would recall the conversation put two and two together and honestly even if SHE DID now looking back give me what she felt was specific advice that after explaining she would recall the conversation and realize it was an honest mistake. But I guess what she / they're saying is that I'm lying - that I went into it full well knowing there would be a charge for either the call or certain subjects and now I'm trying to get away with not paying. :(sad

rainwood - letter is drafted - thank you so much - will send out tomorrow.

momhappy - thank you so much - I had actually made it kind of personal trying to jar the lawyer's memory of our conversation and my parents and my situation hoping she would recall but then she probably recalls and just feels like I say above to missy that I'm just trying to get away with getting free advice.

molly - well...your comment led into a domino effect. I had written you back saying how perception can be so OFF from fact because when I looked at the letter real quick it was dated mid January (phone call was mid october). So I thought - it's not MONTHS it just felt like that because I had put it out of my mind, I was done (unless I could convince mom/dad to move forward). BUT - I just looked at the envolope and it's dated mid February - so yes I didn't get it until mid February. They had sent me an email mid January which I didn't even open until I received the invoice because I really thought it was just a follow-up like "will you be working with us" etc.

Long story short - their first notice to me was mid January via email - but I didn't SEE the invoice until mid Feb. Regardless January is 3 months...

OK all that to say i *will* add it to the letter! ::) (sorry for the runaround but it did help me clarify the chain of events)
 

Rockinruby

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CJ, a couple of things....

I don't think you did anything wrong with calling to follow up. Don't feel bad about it. You've done your best to communicate in a fair manner to give them a chance to dismiss the charges. I would stick to written communications from here on out and copy in the appropriate parties as suggested. They are giving you no option except to proceed with filing a complaint. I understand that the attorney connected with you in a warm way, but she still needed to stop to the explain charges first. :doh:

The other thing I was going to say was to be sure you send the new letter off promptly. It looks like you will be sending it off tomorrow which is great! I know this is a stressful situation for you so it seems the sooner handled the better with this latest development. I am glad you updated the thread. We are all hoping you have a good outcome soon. :appl:

Loupetroop is the preloved jewelry site. People will create a listing with their email info when they want to get in touch off of PS. :wavey:
 

CJ2008

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Guys - I just noticed something else - in looking at the invoice more carefully I notice that it says the conversation took 1.80 hours.

there is NO WAY that conversation was that long. I just went to the beginning of this thread to see what my perception had been and I see that I said it was like 30 or 40 minutes.

I am really really confused now. :confused:

Is it POSSIBLE that what I'm remembering to be a 30 - 40 minute conversation was almost TWO hours? :confused:

OMG.

I did a quick search in my email to see if I sent out any emails that day that would clearly indicate I was doing something else way before almost 2 hours after the appointment time...but nothing...

Wow. I just don't know what the heck is going on. This is why sending an invoice months later is also a problem.

ETA - and more importantly - do I bring this up? I mean I could see the lawyer saying to the Bar how is that a person could think a two-hour conversation is FREE? :???: Looking at it from the outside most people would agree. If it actually took that long I can tell you I had no perception of it. This goes to show you how something can walk like a duck and act like a duck and it ISN'T a duck. :blackeye:
 

rainwood

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I have no idea what to say about the length of the call as I don't know the facts. Did you use your cell phone so you could go back and see how long you were on the phone? An almost 2-hour call would be a very long call with a client. How many pages of notes did you take? Did anyone tell you there was a time limit?

I will also say that the fact the bill says 1.8 hours doesn't mean that's how long the call actually was, and it doesn't change the fact that you'd been told it was a complimentary consultation and no one said the complimentary part of the call was over at any point. If the call drifted beyond the "free" part, it was still their responsibility to tell you.

Hope this helps.
 

CJ2008

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rainwood|1456886806|3998216 said:
I have no idea what to say about the length of the call as I don't know the facts. Did you use your cell phone so you could go back and see how long you were on the phone? An almost 2-hour call would be a very long call with a client. How many pages of notes did you take? Did anyone tell you there was a time limit?

I will also say that the fact the bill says 1.8 hours doesn't mean that's how long the call actually was, and it doesn't change the fact that you'd been told it was a complimentary consultation and no one said the complimentary part of the call was over at any point. If the call drifted beyond the "free" part, it was still their responsibility to tell you.

Hope this helps.

No...this was a phone call from my home phone/landline - and I don't think it would be considered long distance...but I'll see if I log into my phone account and find it.

I took the notes in OneNote in a table next to the the notes I took from one other attorney...I estimate just the notes from her would come to 1 printed page max.

It doesn't change the facts like you say but it's bothering me - mostly because again, of what it looks like from the outside.
 
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