- Missouri Employment Law Info Site – TimsLaw.com - http://www.timslaw.com -
GUIDE to Tim’s Fees and Services
Most lawyers determine how to handle fees case by case, as I do. So don’t let the idea of legal fees or expenses keep you from at least calling around to lawyers and talking a little about your case. If you want to talk to my office, then also look at these articles: How to Contact the Willoughby Law Firm (new window) and How we handle phone calls requesting a consultation (new window).
Please make note that Telephone and Long Distance Consults are possible:
Sometimes I consult with people outside of Missouri who have connections with Missouri employers, but that’s case by case. See Telephone or Long Distance Consults and you can pay the fee by credit card (or pay by cash or check in advance if we have enough time for mailing).
Sometimes a lawyer can suggest certain steps be taken that might position the employee to better-withstand the impending challenges ahead.
Sometimes such early action can salvage a career, or lay the foundation for a decent Severance Contract down the road, or perhaps begin preparing for a possible legal action for Wrongful Termination or Retaliation or Breach of Contract, if the problem doesn’t get fixed. You will usually have to pay a consult fee for such early advice.
NOTE: See the severance consults section of this article for more details about what goes on during a severance contract consultation.
One of the primary goals of early planning and strategizing is to strengthen your legal position for later on, if the situation does not get resolved, or it deteriorates, and you end up needing to take legal action sometime down the road. For many people, early planning and careful execution of a legal strategy could make the difference between having a decent case and not having a decent case,or make the difference between being able to get a lawyer later (on favorable terms) or not being able to get a lawyer at all.
I charge $250 for a typical consult, and will spend up to an hour with you. In more complex matters, where we need to go overtime, we can talk about what, if any, additional fees might apply — But it is fairly rare that I need more than an hour to sort things out and give you a plan.
We most commonly go overtime in especially complex non-compete and contract matters. But I typically get through a routine non-compete or contract consultation in an hour.
Occasionally, your matter is very complicated, and there is much to talk about, and we end up spending a great deal of time together. I am sorry, but time is money, and you get what you pay for.
Due to the education provided by this website, I am often able to sort out a fairly complicated scenario efficiently, because a lot of people come to see me already armed with quite a bit of general employment law knowledge. This knowledge makes our consultation more efficient. In the office, we can zoom in on the most relevant unique circumstances, and I can send web-savvy people to my website to fill in some of the gaps in their knowledge, rather than charge for the time needed to educate people about basic employment law concepts.
But some situations remain too complicated to sort out in one hour. We sometimes need longer than one hour in billable time. There may be a lot at stake in making the right decision, and several worthwhile options to consider carefully, and we shouldn’t rush things. Even though a consult may cost a lot, you might receive an enormous value because you will have a plan, or have been finally able to make a decision about what to do. With your career on the line, or a lot of money at stake, a consult fee could be a relative bargain if it helps you make the right decision.
Once again, I’ll mention my article Should I sue?, which gives you an overview of the steps that lawyers will probably follow in helping you decide what to do about your situation. There’s usually an awful lot to consider and talk about.
Try not to resent it that lawyers charge consult fees. We’re just working stiffs like you. So often in life, you get what you pay for.
People often call me and want to know detailed fee info before we consult, because such callers are engaged in Price Shopping for employment law services.
Do such callers believe that any lawyer will give them essentially the Same Advice, and price should be the determining factor? Law is not an exact science. It’s a mixture of science and art, because we are dealing with the vague meaning of words (contained in laws and court decisions and documents and conversations) and people’s motives and actions, rather than the hard reality of tangible things like bones and rocks and chemicals. Every lawyer may approach things differently.
I prefer to learn a little bit about a caller’s situation before getting into fees for ongoing legal work. Please see my procedure for handling your call, where I explain what tends to happen in my office when my phone rings.
You can expect that I will charge a consult fee, at my usual rate. And so the answer we give on the phone is usually “yes, Phil charges a fee to consult, and fees for further services will be determined by Phil during or after the consultation”.
CAUTION — The vast majority of people will not receive a free consultation from me. I am sorry that I cannot oblige most people.
My assistant has instructions to ask you a few questions when you call, and if you cannot afford the consult fee, my assistant will process your call according to criteria I have dictated, and if you appear to possibly meet the criteria, she will tell me, and I will determine whether I am willing to see you without charging consult fees. Although I Love a good strong contingency fee case as much as any other lawyer does, I cannot usually tell whether you have such a strong case unless I have consulted with you in detail. But once in a while, your circumstances really “jump” out as possibly special, and I offer a free consult.
If you are looking for a free consultation, and most people are, you are essentially asking a lawyer to try to help you determine if you have a worthwhile case, and step you through some or all of the process described in my article called Should I sue?. Take a look at those articles to see how much you are asking an employment lawyer to do for free.
Employment law is not like ordinary personal injury law or workers comp law: it’s much more difficult to determine whether you have a decent employment case. When you call a personal injury law firm about your car accident case, the call screener asks you a series of questions that, if you answer them right, means you almost certainly have a good contingency fee case (The other driver got ticketed, your medical bills exceeded $50,000, etc). But employment law is way, way more complex than that, and way way more difficult to determine if you have a worthwhile case for purposes of contingency fee representation.
It takes a pretty strong-sounding set of facts to get an employment lawyer to devote a lot of time to consulting with you without charging anything. Please understand that the majority of people who feel mistreated by an employer do not have strong legal claims to file in court for many highly technical legal reasons, but there may still be plenty they can do about the problems.
Those whose legal positions are weak may still have lots of legal rights, so there is a lot I could talk about with them regarding their Missouri employee rights and the pros and cons of litigation and the benefits and risks and disappointments of the various courses of action available. Also, I can help Strategize with people on how to strengthen their potential cases. But I can’t afford to give away that much time in most cases.
Workers Comp consults are free. I have an entire article dedicated to talking about my Workers Comp Services. I’m quite pleased with the package of services I’ve been able to put together for you. Take a look at Phil’s Workers Comp-related services.
After our consultation, you will be armed with much info and be better able to make an informed decision about how to proceed. Perhaps you will decide to drop the matter. If you decide to drop the matter, then you may have saved yourself many thousands of dollars in wasted legal-related expenses, simply by spending a modest amount on consultation fees. Sometimes I serve you best by talking you out of proceeding with your weak case, but I usually charge for that service.
Get a taste for how complicated the consult might get by reading Should I sue? and the articles linked-to from that article.
Believe me when I tell you this: I Love a good strong contingency fee case, and I look hard to find them.
BUT (there’s always a “but” isn’t there?) – The first time you call my office, it’s most often unclear whether your situation will be worthwhile to pursue. We may see some hints that suggest you might have a worthwhile case, but I will need a lot more detailed information. I need to find out your facts in detail, and find out a lot of personal info about you and your goals and personal situation in life. I may need to do some legal research. Then I can help you decide whether your case is worthwhile considering all the most important factors.
If it’s unclear whether you should pursue your case (and it usually is unclear), how can I stay in business giving away my time helping you decide not to hire me? So I will usually charge you a consultation fee.
See my article Should I sue? for a general overview of the steps that lawyers will probably follow in helping you decide what to do about your situation.
There are many reasons why I might decline to meet for free, or even refuse to meet with you at all.
The biggest reason is that the typical case is simply too muddy and messy to know, in advance of a consult, whether anything is worthwhile to do.
Don’t be afraid to call around to more lawyers. You might find one who is willing to consult for free.
Generally speaking, fees for ongoing legal work of any type are set case by case and situation by situation. Often, a contingency fee of some form will be appropriate. But even with a contingency fee, you may be required to pay a modest amount in guaranteed legal fees, to help reduce the risk to the attorney. Each lawyer handles it differently, and each case is unique.
Fees to sue someone for you are variable: Occasionally I will do a case on pure contingency fee, where you don’t pay legal fees unless you collect. But pure contingency fees are the exception in employment cases, because most people just don’t have a strong enough case. It will usually cost you some legal fees to get a lawyer involved in your case, so that we share the risk. The fees will vary case by case.
Fees to assist you with your charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC or MCHR (see discrimination) are variable: I often assist on at least a partial contingency fee, with some guaranteed fees. It all depends.
Fees for various miscellaneous legal work are variable: It’s all case by case really. Depending on the type of work to be performed, and how much work there will be, the fee will be set accordingly.
How do you like the vagueness of the above answers? I sure wish I could be more firm in my answers, but every situation is unique. For example, even though non-compete cases are usually pure hourly fees, I sometimes do them on a flat fee basis, or do parts of them on a flat fee basis (such as a restraining order (TRO) hearing). It all depends ………
“Miscellaneous expenses” are not attorney fees. They are various costs, such as filing fees, deposition expenses, copy services, expert witness fees, etc. For much more detail, please see my article on Expenses in Employment Litigation.
It’s rare for there to be any significant miscellaneous expenses unless an actual lawsuit is filed.
A lawsuit is when a lawyer files a Petition for you with a court of law. EEOC charges are not “lawsuits” even though the general public often thinks so. People often call me and tell me “I’m suing my employer” when all they’ve really done is filed an EEOC charge. That’s not a lawsuit. Also, people often think they’re “suing” just because their lawyer is making out-of-court demands for settlement, but that’s not the same as filing a lawsuit. If no lawsuit has been formally filed with a court of law, then it’s rare for any significant expenses to be incurred in the case.
Miscellaneous Expenses (other than attorney fees) are sometimes quite high in employment lawsuits. It is fairly rare for employment lawyers to pay the expenses of a routine case. Almost always, the client will have to agree to pay the expenses of the case. Of course there are many exceptions, and the stronger your case the more likely it is that you will find a lawyer willing to front the expenses.
In lawsuits, common miscellaneous Expenses include the following: court filing fees, depositions (court reporter fees could be a handful of thousands of dollars), expert witness fees (doctors and others might charge a couple of thousand dollars), travel (if witnesses are scattered around), copying (mucho paper must be copied during a case, at about 4 cents to 8 cents a page), long distance telephone calls, and many other expenses. (Attorney fees are not “miscellaneous expenses”. Attorney fees are separate expenses.)
TRAP: In employment cases, if you lose the case, then the court will enter a judgment against you for the miscellaneous expenses of the winning party (which could run many thousands of dollars, just like your own expenses). See Expenses and Pros and Cons of litigation for more info.
If you have not already done so, please see my article about Unemployment Appeals.
A side benefit of using a lawyer on an unemployment appeal is that you get a lot of lawyer time in trying to figure out what strong legal rights you might have, and an opportunity to question the employer’s witnesses under oath to build evidence for your potential court case.
I try to make it reasonably affordable to have a lawyer assist you with your unemployment appeal, but I can’t do the hearings for free; it takes too much time start to finish. Sometimes I’ve agreed to assume the unemployment hearing burden as part of another matter, perhaps such as representing you in an EEOC or MCHR matter (discussed elsewhere in this article).
When we consult, I assess your chances of winning the hearing, and I offer tips on arguments and evidence you can present at the hearing, if you choose to do the hearing alone.
You do tend to get bang for your buck, however, by employing a lawyer at the hearing level. That’s because you probably have a greater chance of winning the first hearing than you do any further appeals. Further appeals take even more time, and the most relevant evidence for a further appeal consists of the transcript and evidence presented at the first hearing. So if you get the first hearing right, you’ll probably be stronger on further appeal. Either you or your employer can make a further appeal to the Labor Industrial Relations Commission, after the first hearing.
If you have not already done so, please see my article about Unemployment Appeals.
I have several methods of pricing my services to assist you with a charge of discrimination. I have to decide case by case whether, and to what extent, I am willing to gamble my time. To get a taste of how complicated the calculation can become, have a look at my Deciding what to do … suing, etc article.
Representation at the EEOC or MCHR charge level can involve several different things, depending on your situation:
Here are some of the more common fee arrangements to represent you at the EEOC or MCHR levels:
Yes, I do traditional personal injury work. It’s free to call me and talk a little bit about your case. If I like your facts, I’ll usually invite you in for a free discussion. Depending on the case I often work on contingency fee, but not always. It all depends on your unique circumstances of course. Feel free to call.
Here’s a quick rant about the “tort reform” that’s been in the news for some years: Who is funding the nationwide political attacks on plaintiffs’ trial attorneys? – Well, follow the money and you’ll get your answer – I think it’s insurance companies, of course. Those insurance companies make excess profits by not paying otherwise payable claims, and they are seeking legislative help in trying to avoid paying the otherwise payable claims. They contribute a lot of money, and they buy political support for their scheme to increase profits by capping damage payouts. In other words, “tort reform” means “extra profit” for insurance companies. And the persons who pay those extra profits are injury victims whose compensation is reduced, because the compensation is effectively being transferred back to the insurance company to be used as profits and bonuses for executives, with some left over to contribute to heartless politicians. So a politician who votes for radical “tort reform” measures is voting for more political contributions from the insurance industry, and it’s all paid for by injury victims. Maybe I should write an article about this.
Please don’t let the prospect of paying legal fees or miscellaneous expenses keep you from calling a lawyer and talking about your case. Fees and expenses are determined case by case.
Thanks for your interest. I look forward to hearing from you. NOTE: If you call my office and do not receive a prompt callback, please call again. That will avoid us having to play phone tag with you. Click here for info on my procedure for handling your call.
Maintained by Attorney Phil Willoughby
Founded by Tim Willoughby, Esq. (1959-2013)
Phil is a Missouri employment lawyer who is licensed to practice in Kansas and Missouri, and primarily takes cases in Saint Louis and Kansas City. He is a member of the Missouri Bar Association and Kansas Bar Association. Additionally, he has practiced in the United States Federal Courts of Missouri in St. Louis and Kansas City. He has also practiced in the Kansas Federal District Court in Kansas City, Kansas.
Missouri Bar Website (To view the directory of lawyers).
Phil Willoughby, Attorney
Licensed in Missouri and Kansas
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GUNN, SHANK & STOVER, P.C.
9800 NW Polo, Suite 100
Kansas City, MO 64153
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