Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Was $5,000 phone call from lawyer excessive?

DEAR HARRY: My son is a student at one of our local universities. Last month, a female student claimed that someone stole her pocketbook by force. One of the suspects was my son. He was nowhere near the school when this happened, but the victim identified him. My son is Asian, and apparently the thief was also Asian. We immediately engaged a lawyer to represent him with a retainer of $5,000. The lawyer never met with my son. He made one phone call to someone who got my son released. About a week later, the lawyer called to say that authorities had a confession from another student . . . also Asian. About a month later, we called the lawyer to ask for an accounting of his charges and a refund of any excess. He refused, telling us to read our agreement, which indicated that the $5,000 was an unconditional payment. Harry, we are not rich people, and that fee for one phone call is way out of line. Are we really stuck?

WHAT HARRY SAYS: A number of years ago, I was a member of the Bar Association's Fee Disputes Committee. Of the many cases we had to consider, all but one involved a criminal case not too different from yours. On the surface, it does appear that his charge was excessive. However, we do not know how much he did behind the scenes to get the release and to locate the real culprit. I see every reason for you to submit your claim to the Fee Disputes Committee. You will find them thorough and fair. Call 215-238-6300.


Email Harry Gross at, or write to him at Daily News, 801 Market St., Philadelphia, PA 19107.

Harry urges all his readers to give blood. Contact the American Red Cross at 800-Red Cross.

Harry Gross Daily News Personal Finance Columnist
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