How do you charge?
We bill by the hour, with our time calculated in tenths of an hour. The minimum time increment is .2. Our hourly rates are competitive because we work hard to keep overhead low. Currently, our rates range from $250 to $375 per hour, depending on the attorney who is working on your California appeal or writ petition. Generally, this is a lower rate than you will be charged by other appellate attorneys of comparable experience in most Southern California appellate law firms.
Because we only handle California appeals, writ petitions and legal research; it often takes us less time than other attorneys to get to the heart of the problem and research and draft an appellate brief. Mr. Dodd has over 25 years of appellate experience and is a Certified Appellate Specialist. So even though other attorneys may charge lower rates, the total cost may be more because they take more time. Also, there are many attorneys who may be good at trial or negotiating contracts, but are not as experienced at appellate procedures, so they may ending up costing you more money.
We require a retainer deposit when we are hired, which is based on what we estimate it will take to complete your appeal. This is because most of the work on an appeal will be done all at once, over a period of several days or weeks. It is not similar to trial court litigation in which you may have a few hours or days of activity each month spread out over several months.
The main stages of a California appeal are record preparation, reading the record, research and drafting the Opening Brief, reviewing the Respondent’s Brief, research and drafting the Reply Brief, Oral Argument, then reviewing the decision. Usually, even an appeal from a very short trial will probably require a week (40 hours) of attorney time to research and draft an Opening Brief. At $375 per hour, this is $15,000.00. Most appeals after a full trial will range generally from $20,000 to $50,000. If your case was decided in the trial court at an earlier stage by a law and motion proceeding, such as a demurrer or summary judgment motion, the fees may range from $10,000 to $20,000. More complicated motions with lots of paperwork or novel legal issues will take more time.
If you are the Appellant, after our initial consultation and appellate case review, we hold the retainer deposit in a bank trust account. The fees are not drawn until after services are performed or expenses incurred. We provide you an itemized bill, generally after the Opening Brief. The statement will inform you how much is left on account, or the amount owing if the Opening Brief took more time than we estimated. We then provide additional periodic statements, generally after the Reply Brief and Oral Argument. We usually do not provide statements every month because, during an appeal, several months will pass with no activity on your appeal at all. If we agree on a flat fee, that fee is earned when we begin work on the appeal, so there is no periodic billing.
We do accept credit cards for your convenience, which can be processed over the telephone.