Frequently Asked Questions


Explanation of Tollefsen Law Fee Arrangements

Email us regarding a potential new matter – no confidential information



Finding a Lawyer


Q: Should I try to find a lawyer near my location?

A: Not if the lawyer will come to you and not charge for travel time. Normally there is little need to meet the lawyer once you have hired him or her. Lawyers are in the service industry and should be willing to meet you at your office – at least for the initial meeting. With the prices lawyers charge, this service should be available in most circumstances where legal fees are expected to exceed $2,500.



Q: Should I hire the least expensive lawyer I can find?

A: Yes, if the skills, experience, and support tools available to the lawyer are the same. Through Internet subscriptions, even sole practitioners can have the research resources formerly available only to the largest law firms. Ask the lawyer what library resources are at his or her disposal. Ask whether there is a separate charge for online research.



Q: Is the lawyer with the lowest hourly rate less expensive?

A: Not if the lawyer is inefficient or does not have expertise with your legal issue. Often a more experienced lawyer with a higher hourly rate will cost less overall than a young lawyer with a lower rate. Beware of law firms that have your legal work done by associates. Often the associates must bill a minimum number of hours and could bill your file just to meet their assigned billing quota.



Q: How much money must be at risk before I hire a lawyer?

A: Usually it takes the same amount of legal work to handle a $100 problem as a $100,000 problem. Most law offices must perform elaborate procedures to take on a new client. There are conflict checks and the work required to set up the file and the electronic database. Many law firms expect a new file to be worth over $5,000 in billing. An alternative is to have a lawyer on a retainer agreement. See “Retaining a Lawyer” below.



Retaining a Lawyer


Q: Should I retain a lawyer?

A: If your are likely to need a lawyer every year or so, if could be a good idea to have a lawyer or law firm on a retainer agreement. That way, your file is already established at the firm and you can call for advice at an hourly rate. It is helpful to have a lawyer on call who knows you and your situation. It is often difficult to educate a lawyer quickly in an emergency. See Tollefsen Law PLLC retainer policies.



Q: What is a retainer?

A: A pure retainer is a fee paid to a lawyer or law firm to be available to represent you. Some retainer agreements include a contracted amount of work per year. Others charge normal fees in addition to the retainer. Others are hybrid and can be designed to meet your objectives.



Q: How much does a retainer cost?

A: Costs vary widely depending on the reputation of the lawyer and market conditions.



Q:What is your hourly rate?

A: We are willing to work on a flexible fee arrangement including fixed fees or even a contingency fee if the defendant is financially strong. Our hourly rates are between $150 and $400 depending on staff member involved and the expertise needed. More…



Fraud Questions


Q: What is “fraud?”

A. Fraud is the technical term for a legal cause of action that is difficult to prove because it has nine elements. More information on the definition of fraud.



Q: I was cheated. Should I sue for fraud?

A. Usually there is another cause of action available that is easier to prove. Consumer protection and securities fraud cases have fewer elements to prove which have been defined by statute. More information on fraud litigation





Q: What types of fee arrangements are available at Tollefsen Law?

A. While hourly fees are the usual arrangement, Tollefsen Law offers fixed fees, contingency fees, and hybrid fee arrangements for the appropriate situation.



Q: Why does Tollefsen Law charge a minimum fee?

A. TL receives frequent requests for a short meeting with an attorney. It is often not cost effective to have a short meeting with a new client that will not have further work for the firm. In order to meet the demand for small case consultations, new clients (those not established in our database) are charged a minimum retainer of $500. The first $175 goes to the file setup fee. It includes a conflict check and set up of the electronic file in our database. The remaining $325 is applied to future invoices. The $500 is earned on receipt so the firm does not have the cost of maintaining trust account records on small client files. After a client is established in our database, future work (whether related to the initial matter or not) does not require a minimum fee or file setup fee.



Q: How does Tollefsen Law determine whether to accept a contingency fee case?

A. We receive many telephone calls and emails from prospective clients each week seeking legal representation on a contingency fee basis. Most callers do not understand the economics of contingent payment. To take a contingency fee case, the law firm is agreeing to forego an hourly fee case. Therefore the contingency fee case must offer the possibility of compensation in excess of the normal hourly rate, unless there are other compelling circumstances. Cases typically take one to four years to resolve. The cost to the law firm taking the case is often over $100,000. Before investing a significant sum in a contingency fee case, the law firm needs to be assured the defendants have the unquestioned ability to pay any judgment. For example, the perpetrators of financial fraud schemes usually do not have assets or have hidden them. Unless there is another “deep pocket” with potential liability, there is no real remedy for the wrong. TL accepts a limited number of contingency fee cases. For various reasons, we turn down over 90% of contingency fee requests.

Generally we consider all the following factors when deciding whether to take a contingency fee case. If the answer is “yes” to any of the following questions, TL will probably not take your case on a contingency fee basis unless there is a public interest or unusually compelling factor.

Is there a risk that the defendant(s) will not pay a judgment?

Are the damages likely to be less than $200,000?

Has the statute of limitations expired?

Is it a type of case that TL does not normally handle?



Q: Why does Tollefsen Law not offer free consultation?

A. Prospective new clients often request free initial consultations. If we agreed, we would need a full-time attorney just to take initial consultations. Also, because of the experience level of our attorneys, many clients would receive the answer they are seeking in the initial meeting. This is unfair to our attorneys who have engaged in a lifetime of study of law to make their living. Even if we resolved the case in the initial consultation, we would need to establish a new client file, perform conflict checks, and make records of the facts of the case and the advice given.