What to Expect

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place."  
~ George Bernard Shaw

Feel like you missed the memo on how a law firm works?   

That's because there never was a memo -- clients have to figure out each firm's own way of doing things.  We've learned that clients are much more comfortable working with us when they have a clear understanding of what's going to happen and what's expected of them -- How do meetings work?  How does hiring the law firm work?  How does payment work?  What is the roadmap for your project?  What do you need to give/bring/know when we first meet?

Lawyers assume that the client already knows this, and the client assumes that the lawyer doesn't care enough to tell them, and the relationship gets off on a bad foot.  

Here's how we work...  

Here's what you can expect when you choose Harmon Kennedy Law:

How to Get Started: 
15-minute Free Chat or E-Mail

We'll use this time to see if this is the type of project we can handle and what fees may apply.

This is a quick getting-to-know-you call, and does not include legal advice.

Lots of clients prefer e-mail -- if this is you, just click below and tell us what you're looking for!

Alternative How To Get Started: 
1-Hour Attorney Chat (optional)

Some people need a more in-depth consultation to make an informed decision.

If you'd like to dive deeper before going all-in on hiring an attorney, we offer a one hour Attorney Chat for $300.00.   

Your $300.00 will be credited to any related flat-fee work you hire us to do.

Because we'll be discussing legal advice, we'll have you e-sign a quick engagement letter for this call.

If our chat has given you enough information to handle the issue yourself, that's great, and please keep us in mind for your future legal needs! 

1 Hour Meeting ($300)

Hire the Firm:  Sign & Pay Online

Online Intake Form
If we need it, we'll send you a link to fill out your Intake Form online.  This helps make our administrative process more efficient, and we don't have to bug you for "just one more bit" of info.  
We want to know how we can make your experience more convenient, so we'll ask you your communication preferences -- some clients prefer phone, some prefer e-mail, text, or video chat.   

Online Engagement Letter
Next, we'll e-mail you a link to sign your Engagement Agreement online.  Your engagement agreement will also contain our policies so you understand more about how we work.  We don't represent you until the agreement is signed.   Please do not sign until after you've read the agreement and are comfortable with it.  Review & sign at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home.  We will NEVER stand over your shoulder watching you while you read! 

Pay Online
Finally, we will e-mail you a link to your invoice to pay online.  Work starts after the invoice is paid.  We accept credit cards or e-check.   You can always snail mail a paper check as well.  
Once the invoice is paid in full, we get a notification and will begin your project.
YES, we can work out a payment plan, which works like a layaway plan at a retail store.
YES, Our software can auto-bill your credit card on a monthly/weekly basis, which is deposited into your trust account.

We Get to Work & Update You

Depending on the type of work we're doing, we may set up Client Portal for you to securely upload documents.   You will receive updates based upon the communication preference you selected on your Intake.

Major updates and important messages are sent via e-mail or secure Client Portal.  We will not send you important information solely in a text message. 

All Done:  File Closing

After our work is done, you'll receive an electronic "file closing" letter letting you know what we've completed, and giving you follow-up information if our work involved document drafting or if there's still more for you or one of your other advisors to do.  

The Door Stays Open

Please Leave Your Feedback! 

We'll send you a survey asking about your experience -- what you liked, what we could do better. We take this seriously, and use your comments to help us improve our processes.

We'll also reach out and ask you for an online review -- If you're comfortable giving us a review, this really helps us maintain our business while keeping the marketing budget in check -- which keeps prices reasonable for everyone! 

We're Here for Follow-Up

Many clients have found that they have quick questions after their file is closed, or they've misplaced documents.  We don't believe in charging our former clients for access to their documents (we keep them for 7 years) or charging for quick answers to questions about the work we did for them.

Please e-mail any follow-up questions after we're done.  We'll return your e-mail with an answer if it's a quick one (they usually are).

If not, we'll let you know if additional time/research is needed, and what it would cost.  It's pretty rare that we have to charge for questions on prior work, so don't be afraid to reach out!   

Frequently Asked Questions

What's this going to cost?
We totally believe in pricing transparency!  Check out the pricing calculator on this page.

If your needs aren't on it, or if you'd like multiple services (hint: we can discount multiple services because we can be more efficient), us the "Contact Us" box below for a custom quote.

If you have something that isn't appropriate for a fixed fee, we'll let you know.  Hourly rates are $300 per hour.

Before you're asked to pay anything other than a consultation fee, you'll receive an engagement letter to to review and sign.  

It will have the work that's included, and what's not included, and the attorneys' fees and expected third-party costs, outlined in Plain English.  This way you know exactly what you're agreeing to, what you're getting, and what you're not getting -- all upfront.  
Why did you choose a fixed-fee model? How does that help me?
We very strongly feel that flat-fee models are fairer for the client.   It's never made sense to ask the price on anything and get a response of, "I don't know."  That's exactly what hourly billing does to you.

Other reasons our clients love fixed-fee billing:

1) Hourly billing seems to pit the attorney against the client, causing an inadvertent conflict of interest.  The longer the attorney takes to do the work, the more the attorney gets paid.  There's not much incentive to invest in efficient technology or attempt to settle a dispute quickly.  Fixed Fees enable us to do both. 

2) Hourly Billing rewards inefficient work with higher fees.

3) Hourly Billing increases costs for clients because the firm incurs more administrative time and expenses in managing hourly billing. 

4) Hourly Billing discourages you from asking your own attorney a question -- if you know that phone call or e-mail is going to be at least $60 (or $120, if you want a response!), you're going to think twice before asking your question.  If you've got a question about your case, you should be able to ask without fear of the unknown bill.

5)  They never have to ask "am I on the clock?" again! 

Do you offer free consultations?

Yes and No.  We offer a free 15 minute or e-mail "consultation," which is more of an information-gathering session, and we offer a one-hour paid consultation, which allows us to dig deeper and give advice.

What to expect from a 15 minutes free chat?

  • We'll ask about your goals - why are you calling a lawyer?   What's the background of what's going on?
  • We'll tell you whether this is something we can handle.  There's lots of stuff we don't do.
  • If we can't handle your case, we'll let you know if we're aware of someone else who may be able to help.
  • If it's going to be flat-fee work, we'll tell you what it's going to cost.
  • If it's something that must be done hourly, we'll tell you and give you a "ballpark" idea of what it would cost.
  • Fee estimates may also be given in a follow-up email.
  • No legal advice is discussed or given.  We have ethical restrictions on that since you're not a client at this point

What to expect from a Paid Consultation?

  • If 15 minutes wasn't enough, we can continue the discussion via a paid consultation.
  • Paid consults are $300 per hour, 30 minutes minimum
  • Sign a short engagement letter before your paid consult to allow us to discuss legal advice
  • If you decide to hire the firm after your paid consult, your $300 is credited to your flat fee or hourly invoice.
  • If you do not decide to hire the firm, there are unfortunately no refunds unless our time clocks in at under 30 minutes. 
  • Then we can process a 50% refund for the unused time. 
  • Discussions will include time for you to ask actual legal questions and get actual legal answers (quick questions; assuming no research is necessary).
Are there any drawbacks to the fixed-fee model?

Yup.  We haven't seen a "perfect" billing model yet. 

Disclosure time:  Below are some things you may not like about fixed-fee billing:

1) Efficiency & experience leads to perceived inequity.  If the law firm can use technology and experience to turn around a project quickly, a client may not feel like they got all the "time" they paid for.  For example, if the attorney can answer a contract dispute question in 30 seconds, but it took 6 hours of research on a different case plus 3 years of law school to learn the answer in the first place, the client may think there's less value in that "quick" response because the client doesn't know the work that went into getting the knowledge originally. 
2) Add-Ons:  Just like with airlines, more "stuff" costs more.   Quicker turnaround times cost more.  More phone time than allotted in the fee costs more.  Super complex document review & drafting costs more.  Think of it like upgrades -- you pay for a basic level, but if your project requires more than basic level, it will cost more.  We'll tell you as soon as we know this is going to apply.    

3) Not Full Service:  Hourly billing models can essentially make the attorney available to the client all the time, anytime.  The client gets all the time and attention they need, and the attorney gets paid for their time.  With fixed-fee models, there's usually a cap on how much time is allowed (ex:  1 hour communications before the work is performed, and perhaps 30 minutes follow-up after the work is done).   We consider all of our fixed fee services "unbundled," which means the work is capped at exactly what's written in the engagement letter -- more work or additional services is a different engagement with a different price or treated as an "add-on."

If you're not comfortable with these, you can request an hourly model.  

Everybody has different preferences, and thanks to major investments in technology, we can handle different preferences pretty seamlessly. 

What if I prefer to pay hourly?

No problem!  Regardless of what we think are the benefits of a fixed-fee model, some clients still prefer to pay hourly, and that's just fine.

Our hourly rates are $300 and we bill in 0.1 (6-minute) increments.  Deposits are based on the anticipated amount of work, and start at $1500.

If my case cannot be handled with a fixed fee, what's your hourly rate?

$300 per hour billed in 0.1 (6 minute) increments.  Deposits start at $1,500.

What are my payment options?

Most clients pay securely by credit card or e-check online through a link they receive in their e-mail. 

We can also accept checks or cash. 

Payment Plans: 

"Layaway" - if you need to make incremental payments.  For example, if your flat fee bill is $1500, our software can charge your credit card (into a trust account) $500 per month for 3 months, and notify our office at the end of the 3 months when the payment is complete.  Then work can begin. 

"Split Payments" between more than one person:   If you and your co-owner each want to pay 1/2 of the bill, you can do that on the payment screen -- just enter your "share" and a link will go separately to your co-owner for them to do the same. 

"Auto-Pay":  We can auto-bill your credit card on a monthly basis for your monthly subscription plan. 

For these payment options or to learn more, please email: teresa@harmonkennedy.com

Do you charge a retainer?

The word "retainer" is often misused.  As for "retainers" that are paid to the firm just to be available to handle your work if and when it comes, we don't do that specifically. 

For monthly subscriptions, these can look like retainers.  However, the monthly subscription fee is paid at the same fee every month on a recurring basis.  It doesn't fluctuate based on what's "left" in any account. 

For flat fees, we charge the amount of the quoted flat fee, paid up front. 

For the few cases we do on an hourly basis, we charge an upfront deposit, which is held in a client trust account. A deposit is not a flat fee, and it's not a retainer and the deposit will probably need replenished from time to time. On many occasions, HK can complete a project for less than the deposit the client has already paid. In that case, refunds are issued within 15 days of file closing. Before signing an engagement agreement, we will discuss the amount of the deposit and how the deposit and billing process works. Deposits help HK keep fees low for clients because less administrative time is wasted trying to collect earned fees for completed work. Law firms often end up raising fees when old client invoices aren’t paid, and the deposit system helps avoid higher fees for everyone.

Other attorneys say I don't pay unless I win. Why do I have to pay you?

Because we don't do adversarial work -- there's nothing to "win."

“Pay if you win” cases are known as contingency fee cases. This means that the law firm accepts of the risk of you losing your case. In exchange, if you “win” any money from the other side, the law firm gets a much larger cut of the money because the firm is the one taking the risk and doing the work upfront without a guarantee of payment. This is not typical for transactions, because the law firm is not really hired to “win” anything, but to get something done.   

We generally do not accept "pay if you win" cases because we don't handle issues in dispute or that are headed to court. 

Can we meet in person?

Yes - please use the Contact Us form below and ask for an "in-person" scheduling link. 
In-person meeting times have a more restrictive schedule and require the $300 consultation fee in advance.    Subsequent in-person meetings will also be hourly and at an additional fee (unless it's for signing estate planning documents).

Do I really need to hire an attorney?

It depends.  Some stuff can be handled appropriately on your own.    

We're comfortable telling you that, and we tell clients that a lot. 

If it seems during our 15 minute chat/email that your goal is something you can handle yourself with low-risk, we'll let you know. 

We might even have a quick form to send you to set you on your way, and are happy to do so. 

We just ask that you think of our firm later when you have your next legal need! 

Can you just review my DIY or online documents?

Yes, with the caution that, depending on the quality of the documents you've found, it often costs more to review and revise than it does for us to just draft them in the first place. 

I found a form online for $19.95. Won't it be cheaper to do it myself?

It depends on what you mean by "cheap."    Yes, it will absolutely cost you less up front to download online and fill in the blanks yourself.   

Here's why that's not always a great idea: 

1) Those forms rely on you to ensure they're legally valid and say what you need it to say... and not say things that could work against you later... and be compliant with the particular laws in your state... and properly describe what's included in your deal... and what's not included in your deal.... and what conditions apply to your deal... and to add the stuff that the form doesn't cover... you get it.    If you knew what it needed to say, you could have just written it yourself in the first place.   

2) Form contracts are almost never specific enough to actually "say what they need to say."    Most contract disputes deal with the details.  For example, if your template says "Joe will provide landscaping services and Mary will pay $xx..." the dispute will likely deal with something like whether Joe breached the contract by charging Mary extra for fertilizer, or Mary breached by asking for fertilizer and refusing to pay extra for it.   Your form needs to cover the details of what's likely to go wrong, and one-liners usually don't cut it.  

3) I've seen plenty of the "forms" contain stuff that could hurt the client in the future, and stuff that isn't even legally enforceable.   Sometimes, you're better off with no contract than with a bad one.  But, that's up to you to know.

4) I've seen clients buy forms for something that really has nothing to do with their goal -- internet companies will sell you anything you click on.   For example,  they'll surely sell you an independent contractor form when you have an employee.  Companies get in trouble quite a bit for that.   Just ask the IRS.   But, that's up to you to know. 

5) If the form puts you in hot water later, you're on your own.   If you don't use it right and get into a dispute or a lawsuit, you're on your own.  And the attorney fees are much more expensive than they ever would have been to just get it right the first time.   But that's up to you to know.

It's just a sales pitch when you say I shouldn't DIY, right?

On one hand, yes, we sell this stuff.  But we've also had to fix it.  We've had to deal bad documents in court.  We've had to negotiate for Clients on bad documents with little or no leverage.  Clients really hate it when their $100,000 lawsuit today could have been avoided with an appropriate $1500 contract a few years ago.  They've lost money, lost time dealing with the problem, maybe lost some customer goodwill, and probably lost a business relationship.    That stuff can be salvageable upfront, but is nearly impossible once the dispute really sets in.     

 Some lawyers love to see online and DIY documents because it pretty much ensures future legal work to fix or litigate them, and that future work is way more expensive, so we get paid more!   

For example, you can certainly draft your own deed. You have a computer and you can find a form online from one of those “fill-in-the-blank” form companies for $19.95. You’ll probably “save” $200 or so doing it this way.

Do you want to know how much it costs to fix a bad deed?  Want to know how much it costs to go to court over ownership a few years down the road?  Want to know how much it will cost your kids or grand-kids to fix it a few decades from now.  We can't really tell you that one, but guess it will be more than $200. 

You probably won't know about any of these problems until you go to sell your property years down the road and find out that your deal is screwed up because you “saved” $200 a few years ago. Or maybe you didn’t effectively transfer the title at all and a creditor has now placed a lien on your property? Fixing the problem at this point could cost thousands, plus the sale of your property.  Ask us how we know. 

With almost anything in life, you get what you pay for -- If your problem is only a $19.95 problem if it goes downhill, then DIY may be a good fit. 

Do you handle other types of cases?

Nah.  If it's not business or estate planning, we probably won't do it.  It goes back to transparency. 

We very narrowly tailor what we do because our clients need it done well.. 

We don't dabble. 
We don't try to know everything about every type of law.   
We spend our time going "deep" into business law (and specifically business law as it relates to the events, food, and beverage industries), rather than learning a little bit about a lot of unrelated stuff.

If we do not feel like your case is something we can competently handle, we will tell you. 
For example, we will not take your custody or criminal case.  We probably won't take your landlord tenant dispute. 

It's not because we don't want to work with you -- it's because we care more about your needs than we do about making a sale. 

But we know other attorneys that do a great job in other areas of law, and are happy to provide you names if we know someone.
  It doesn't hurt to ask.