Terms of Representation
The following terms and conditions are for informational purposes and are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship or form the basis for a contract unless you have executed a formal Representation Agreement with James Legal, PLLC. The purpose of sharing this with you is to ensure a clear understanding of what you can expect from representation by James Legal, PLLC, and what James Legal, PLLC, expects from you.
These terms and conditions may be amended with little or no notice. In the event of a significant change, we will provide notice to our current clients and allow an opportunity for review before implementing the amendments.
These terms and conditions are incorporated by reference into the standard Retainer Agreement.
My Service to You
As your attorney, I will represent you to the best of my ability in order to meet your stated goals. You authorize me to act on your behalf as your attorney-in-fact, and I will act as your agent and perform legal services consistent with your instruction. I do not make any guarantee of success, as the nature of many – if not most – legal issues is often somewhat ambiguous and legal outcomes can be unpredictable.
In addition to advocating on your behalf, I will also provide both legal and practical advice related to your matter(s) and the surrounding circumstances. While your stated objectives and instructions are controlling, failure or refusal to act according to my advice may result in the termination of our attorney-client relationship. See Section 1.7, below.
Once you have retained me, all communications between us are covered by the West Virginia Rules of Professional Responsibility, which include provisions for confidentiality (i.e., attorney-client privilege). Until I am retained, our conversations are not confidential, and the substance may be disclosed to others.
One of the most common complaints about attorneys is lack of communication with clients. While there is some merit to this complaint, it is also important to remember that legal processes are often slow by design and, therefore, information worth communicating may not arise often or consistently.
I prioritize keeping my clients informed and make myself regularly available for questions and concerns. However, as a solo practitioner, my availability may be reasonably limited due to meetings, court, and personal obligations, so please be aware of the following policies:
1.4.1 Phone Conversations
If you have a matter that is urgent and must be addressed within 24 hours, call my office number during regular business hours. If I am unavailable, leave a message and I will make every effort to return your call by the end of the day. If you need to call after hours or on the weekend, please see Sections 1.4.7 through 1.4.9, below.
1.4.2 Text Messaging
For many of us, text messaging has become a primary means of communication, often replacing phone calls. James Legal, PLLC, embraces this trend. Whether your issue is urgent or not, sending a text message will generally get my attention more quickly than any other form of communication. Depending on the urgency of the matter, I will attempt to get in touch with you by the end of the day. Again, please see Sections 1.4.7 through 1.4.9 for after hours and weekends.
1.4.3 Email Correspondence
Email should only be used for non-urgent matters unless specifically requested. I only check my email a few times per day, and rarely respond immediately. If you send an email, do not expect a timely response.
1.4.4 Social Media
All social media platforms seem to have integrated messaging services now (e.g., Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Messages, etc.). Potential new clients are welcome to contact James Legal, PLLC, via social media to inquire about potential representation. However, once you have become a client, please do not rely on social media for communication with me.
1.4.5 Making an Appointment
Some issues are simply too important or complex for phone calls, text messages, or emails. The best way to ensure that your concerns will be heard and addressed in full is to schedule an appointment with me. We can meet in-person or, with the aid of technology, we can meet virtually. Call, text, or email to schedule.
1.4.6 The Short-and-Sweet Rule
If you have a question that has a simple, short answer, I reserve the right to exercise discretion in billing and may not charge you for the brief amount of time necessary to respond. I do not want my clients to hesitate to ask questions out of fear of excessive billing.
1.4.7 Regular Business Hours, Holidays, and Vacations
My office hours are 9:00AM until 5:00PM (ET), Monday through Friday. While I frequently maintain irregular hours by choice and may respond to an email or text in the middle of the night or even on the weekend, you should not assume that I will be available outside of my stated office hours. If you call, text, or email after hours, I will attempt to get in touch as soon as possible on the next business day during normal hours.
Unless specifically stated elsewhere, I observe all Official State Holidays, which include:
• New Year’s Day
• Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
• President’s Day
• Memorial Day
• West Virginia Day (June 20)
• Independence Day
• Labor Day
• Columbus Day
• Veterans’ Day
• Thanksgiving & Black Friday
• Christmas Day
If you reach out to me over a holiday, I will respond to you on the next business day.
If I am on vacation, my voicemail and email auto-responder will contain the details. If you reach out to me during my vacation, I will respond to you on the next business day that I am in the office.
When facing a legal issue, it is understandable to feel as though everything is an emergency. That is why I will make every reasonable effort to provide you with prompt service. However, it is important to understand that, in the legal world, there are very few legitimate emergencies.
The following situations constitute legitimate emergencies:
• You, or an immediate family member, have been arrested within the last 72 hours; and
• You have a legal document that is due in less than 72 hours, such as a complaint, answer, discovery, or some other submission.
Nothing else is defined as an emergency. If you have a legitimate emergency as defined above, call the office, leave a voicemail, and send a text if possible. If you are requesting that I handle a non-emergency situation in an emergency fashion, you will be subject to additional fees as described in the following section.
1.4.9 Non-emergency Urgent Work
I recognize that from time to time you will have an issue that does not rise to the level of an emergency, but which you would still like to be treated with a sense of urgency and priority. In those cases, the following terms apply:
Rush Work During Regular Hours
If you feel that your issue is urgent and you would prefer to have it prioritized and rushed during regular hours, I will accommodate when possible. However, I reserve the right to charge up to two (2) times my standard rate for the type of work to be performed.
After Hours Work
As a matter of policy, I do not attend to non-emergencies after regular hours by request. If you feel that your issue is urgent and you need it addressed outside of my regular hours, I reserve the right to bill up to three (3) times my standard rate in one-hour blocks.
1.5 LEGAL FEES
The standard approach to billing for legal fees at James Legal, PLLC, is to charge an hourly fee. My hourly rate ranges from $275 to $400, depending on the nature of the work. For certain services and in certain circumstances, I may offer alternative fee arrangements including flat fees, contingency fees, and hybrid fees, but unless such an arrangement is memorialized in your Representation Agreement, the standard hourly rate applies.
It may become necessary, at my discretion, to engage the help of another attorney or law firm on your case. In this event, I will invoice you for their work – you will not receive a separate invoice from that attorney or firm.
Expenses incurred in connection with your representation are your responsibility to pay. From time to time, at my discretion, certain expenses may be advanced with the understanding that you will reimburse the firm. Expenses include, but are not limited to, court costs, photocopying costs, printing costs, deposition expenses, expert expenses, parking expenses, air fare, and out-of-town automobile expenses at the rate set by the Internal Revenue Service. Expenses will be paid from your retainer unless your Representation Agreement states otherwise.
1.7 ENDING YOUR REPRESENTATION
If I feel it may be necessary to terminate your representation, I will provide you written notice explaining my concerns. If, after thirty (30) days, you have not corrected the issues identified in the notice, I will voluntarily withdraw from representing you. On termination of your representation, I will keep all physical, electronic, and other items related to your case or matter for a minimum of six (6) months. After this period, I may choose to destroy any non-electronic documents or evidence in a secure manner.
1.8 DOCUMENT RETENTION
Generally, all documents and other physical belongings relating to your case or matter may be destroyed six (6) months after your file is closed. If you would like to keep these items, you must either arrange to pick them up or have them shipped to you at your expense. If you do not indicate that you would like to keep these items, they will be destroyed in a secure manner. Your electronic file will remain open and available indefinitely. We will notify you in advance if we ever intend to delete your files and will give you an opportunity to transfer them to your possession.
My Expectations of You
In order to effectively represent you, I will need your help and compliance. Please read the following to understand your role in your representation.
Once I am retained, our communications are protected by attorney-client privilege. This privilege exists in part to ensure that you can be open and honest with your attorney. The more accurate information you give me, the better equipped I will be to effectively represent and advise you. You should err on the side of oversharing rather than attempting filter the information you give me.
Over the course of your representation, I may need you to perform certain tasks, retrieve certain documents and things, and attend certain appointments. Please make an earnest effort to cooperate fully with any request I may have. If your matter is one involving litigation, failure to cooperate may result in sanctions from the Court or worse.
2.3 UPDATES TO YOUR INFORMATION
If you move, change your name, get married, change your phone number, or do anything else that may change your accessibility or legal status, please let me know as soon as possible.
Invoices are issued at or around the beginning of each month. I will apply any funds you have in your retainer to outstanding invoices first. All invoices are due ten (10) days after they are issued. There is a fifteen (15) day grace period after the due date. However, if a balance remains on the invoice after the grace period, you will be assessed a two-and-a-half percent (2.5%) finance charge on the outstanding balance every thirty (30) days.
As discussed in Section 1.6 above, expenses may be advanced by James Legal, PLLC. I will include these on your invoices for reimbursement. Expenses will always ultimately be your responsibility.
2.4.2 Failure to Pay
If you continue to carry a balance without setting up a payment plan, I reserve the right to withdraw from your representation. This can result in significant injury to your legal rights and may result in the entry of default judgment against you or the termination of your legal remedies. It is imperative that you pay invoices in a timely manner. You grant me a lien on and security interest in any claim, cause of action, or proceeds from your case as security for the payment of all amounts I am owed. You agree to pay for all costs of collections, including reasonable attorney’s fees, costs, and interest.
2.5 TERMINATING OUR ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP
By law, you can fire me at any time and for any reason. As a professional courtesy, I would appreciate you letting me know why you are terminating your representation so that I may correct the issue in the future.
If we have agreed to an alternative fee arrangement and I am terminated before the representation has ended, you agree that I will be compensated as if I had been hired under the standard hourly fee arrangement, and you will reimburse all expenses incurred before my termination. Because I do not meticulously track time with some alternative fee plans, you agree that I will be permitted to reasonably estimate my time invested and to charge a thirty percent (30%) premium to compensate me for lost time, lost opportunity, and difficulty in re-calculating and re-assessing the time spent on your matter.