Attorney at Law
Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of frequently asked questions and answers which will help familiarize you with our office policies.
1) Do you charge for your initial office consultation? If so, what is that charge?
ANSWER: Yes. The charge for the office consultation is $100. That amount is not based upon a consultation of only 30 minutes or one hour. A first consultation may last several hours, depending upon the client’s case; the charge would still be $100.
2) Does any part of your office consultation fee apply toward your work on the client’s case?
ANSWER: No. The initial office consultation fee does not obligate the client, or me, to do additional work on behalf of the client.
3) Do you take payments toward your legal fees?
ANSWER: Yes. Payments are accepted for the client’s legal fees once the case is started. If the client wishes to make payments toward the ‘retainer’, or down payment, the attorney will accept such payments and will deposit them into her trust account on behalf of the client; however, I will not begin work on the client’s case until the full amount of the retainer has been paid.
4) Do you take credit card payments toward your legal fees?
5) Do you charge clients for telephone calls?
ANSWER: Yes, if the case involves an hourly fee. If I have agreed to represent a client for a lump sum amount which is set at the beginning of the case, then I do not monitor telephone calls and do not charge for them. If I am billing the client on an hourly fee basis, then the time which I spend on a telephone call is taken into consideration the same as if that time were being used to write a letter or to visit with the client. I do use a smaller time minimum to bill than is used by other attorneys. For example, I will count a minimum of .05 hour, or 3 minutes if I take just a few moments to place a call to someone in the case and have been required to leave a message. Many attorneys would use a minimum of .25 hour, or 15 minutes, for that same attempted call, even if it took only 1 or 2 minutes to complete. Such higher minimums can make a significant difference in the total fee charged to a client, since there are many occasions when amounts of time less than 15 minutes are required to be spent by me.
6) Do you bill clients for things like Xerox, fax transmissions, or mileage?
ANSWER: Yes. My charges for Xerox are $.25 per page and $.50 for FAX, unless it is long distance. If it is long distance, it is $1.00 per page. Based upon the gas prices which we are now all experiencing, I do charge for mileage if I am required to go somewhere other than the Courthouse in a client’s case. I charge $.50 per mile, which is slightly less than the federal allowance.
7) What kinds of cases do you handle on a lump sum, or total fee basis?
ANSWER: I will prepare certain documents, such as wills, powers of attorney, and deeds, based upon a lump sum, or total fee basis, rather than an hourly fee. Under certain limited circumstances, I am willing to set a lump sum fee in very simple divorce cases which involve a total agreement between the spouses.
8) Is it possible to schedule a week-end or evening office consultation?
ANSWER: No. While I acknowledge that it is difficult for many clients to take time off from work, or to arrange for a babysitter, to come in to my office during the week day, it is necessary for me to conduct my consultations during standard work day hours.
9) Would you be willing to see both a husband and a wife in an office consultation together for a divorce?
ANSWER: No, not unless both parties were coming to see me to request that I serve as the mediator of their case. A mediator does not represent either party but tries to bring two parties together in an agreement. A lawyer can only represent one person. Even if the other spouse has no intentions of obtaining a lawyer, that spouse must prove to the Court his or her intent to serve as his/her own lawyer before I would be willing to visit with him or her. If he or she does file a paper with the Court telling the Court that he/she is serving as his/her own lawyer, I will then be able to meet with that spouse, just as I would with another family lawyer.
10) Do you permit children to be present during office consultations?
ANSWER: No. The only exception I will make to this is if a client must bring a sleeping infant who will likely remain asleep during the conference. The issues I discuss with clients are always of a mature nature and should not be shared with children. If a client has no choice and must bring a small child to the office appointment, I ask that the parent bring a toy, reading materials, or whatever will entertain the child while I am meeting with the parent.
11) How long have you been an attorney?
ANSWER: 31 years
12) Are you a “specialist” or “board certified” in an area of the law?
ANSWER: No. A legal specialist or board certified attorney typically practices in only one area of the law. I consult with clients in a variety of legal issues and have not limited my practice to one specialization. The majority of my clients have cases in the areas of family law and wills/probate, and those are the areas in which I have the most experience.
13) To what counties will you travel in your representation of clients?
ANSWER: I will take cases in Polk and San Jacinto counties. Under certain circumstances, I may be willing to represent a client with a case in another county; that decision would have to be made after I met with the client and learned more about the nature of the case.
14) What kinds of cases do you not accept?
ANSWER: I do not represent clients in criminal cases; bankruptcy; personal injury; worker’s compensation; employment discrimination; immigration; or patent law. I can provide recommendations to clients of other lawyers whom I would recommend to handle their criminal, bankruptcy, or personal injury cases.
15) Have you ever had any disciplinary action taken by the State Bar, or any malpractice actions filed in Court, as a result of any complaints brought against you by any clients?
16) What special qualification(s) do you believe you have which you think makes you stand out from other lawyers?
ANSWER: First of all, I believe I am in a unique position to understand my client's concerns, fears and expectations. That is because I worked for 16 years for lawyers in different types of law offices before I went to law school. I was the person in the office who communicated the most with the client, whether in person or by telephone; I was the middle man. I learned directly from the clients what frustrated them about their case, or their relationships with their attorney. I was therefore determined, when I became an attorney, to always remember the position of my client, and to try not to make the same mistakes I had seen other attorneys make. Finally, I still love what I do. I believe my love for my work is something my clients can see when they consult with me.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided herein is not intended to substitute for an attorney’s advice. No attorney/client relationship is formed by this communication. You are strongly urged to obtain legal advice directly from an attorney.
Copyright Kathleen E. Matheu, Attorney at Law. All rights reserved.