Perkins Thompson

How the Maine Center for Elder Law's Prices for Services Are Structured

We have prepared this article to acquaint you (the potential client) with how the Maine Center for Elder Law, LLC prices for the legal services it provides to clients.

Initial Consultations
The purpose of the Initial Consultation is for the Center attorney to have an opportunity to understand your legal concerns and your personal and financial circumstances in order to advise you about what steps and further assistance we recommend.  Before the Initial Consultation, you need to complete our detailed “Planning Worksheet” and bring it with you to the meeting along with copies of key documents listed in the Planning Worksheet.  Part of the Initial Consultation may involve a legal assistant going through your Planning Worksheet and supporting documentation with you in order to make sure that what you brought is complete and to identify data and documentation questions.
The price for the Initial Consultation is $475, which is a "retainer" for the Initial Consultation and is due at the beginning of the meeting, along with the signed Initial Engagement Agreement. Typically, an Initial Consultation takes one and one-half to two hours.
Due to the interdisciplinary nature of elder law, our guidance and recommendations are often a blend of legal and non-legal topics. We will discuss the timeframes, extent of work, and fees and costs involved in the Center assisting you further.  If you and the Center agree to move forward with additional work, you will be asked to sign a specific Engagement Agreement for that work at the end of the Initial Consultation and to pay the retainer or advance deposit.
Please bring your checkbook to the Initial Consultation in order to be able to pay a retainer or advance deposit of the pricing for any next stage of work that you and the Center agree to.
Ways of Pricing for Legal Assistance - Fixed Pricing Versus Hourly Pricing, and "Advance Payment" Versus "Nonrefundable Fee"
Fixed Pricing:  For some engagements with predictable scope and content, the Center sets a fixed price for the project as a whole.  Many clients appreciate fixed pricing because they know what the bill will be from the start and will have paid it from the start, except for any Change Orders that result from changes of their plans due to incomplete or erroneous information they provided to the Center or changes in circumstances.  To accomplish your goals of avoiding costly hourly billings, all phone calls, emails, letters, questions and other communications are included in the fixed price.
Sometimes fixed prices are established for engagement in phases.  For example, a fixed price may be agreed for a certain set of estate planning documents, leaving until later the client’s decision about a second phase of planning about which he or she is still considering additional options that can wait to be decided until the first phase is complete.
Whether fixed pricing is most appropriate is something that we will discuss once we understand the scope of your needs and goals.  When we agree to a fixed price structure, we will set it out in writing.  It will cover attorney and staff time involved in the particular engagement.   Often, it will also include other costs like those discussed below under “Other Costs”, although it is possible that you and the Center attorney could agree that such other costs will be billed or paid by you separately.  See also “Change Orders”, below.
For fixed price billing, an "advance payment" or a "nonrefundable fee" of the price for the agreed work (or phase of the work) is required before our work will begin.  An advance payment is deposited into the Center’s Client Trust Account.  Biweekly (or other intervals determined by work completion), we transfer funds from the Client Trust Account to a bank account containing the Center's funds until the fixed price has been entirely transferred. Because the engagement is for a fixed price, transfers of funds from the Client Trust Account to the Center's business account as the work progresses is primarily for the Center's accounting, so will not be reported to you.
If a Change Order (see below) necessitates another advance payment, we will reach an agreement with you as to the amount needed.  Payment is required before the additional work will be done unless other arrangements are made with the Center attorney.
nonrefundable fee is different from an advance payment.  A nonrefundable fee is a price to hire the Center to carry out certain assistance for you, and is earned by the Center at the beginning of the engagement.  The nonrefundable fee is not deposited in the Client Trust Account to be billed against periodically, but rather is earned when you pay it and is deposited in a bank account of the Center’s funds.  Nevertheless, the payment of the nonrefundable fee is subject to the law firm completing the work specified in the engagement agreement.  The Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar changed the name of this arrangement from a "retainer" to "nonrefundable fee" as of September 1, 2014. 

Hourly Pricing:  Engagements that are somewhat unpredictable in terms of overall scope and time commitments are billed at hourly rates, calculated in one-tenth-hour increments, for attorney and staff time.  An example of typical hourly work is probate estate and/or trust administration.
Under hourly pricing, all time spent on your matter, including office conferences, interviews, attendance at court, drafting documents, research, and all telephone conferences will be billed.  Time spent in telephone calls and in preparing and reading e-mail messages and other correspondence will be billed for, just like any other time doing research, preparing documents, meeting with you, etc.  Driving time is billed at one-half of the respective attorney or staff member’s normal rate.
For hourly pricing, we require an advance payment of the amount of the estimated price for the work agreed to or a phase of that work.  This estimate is not a guaranteed quote nor a fixed priceWhen time and/or costs are billed against the advance payment (biweekly or in other intervals based on work progress), the portion of the advance payment applied to the bill is withdrawn from the Center’s Client Trust Account and deposited into a bank account of the Center’s funds.  Generally, you will receive a statement reporting such applications of the advance payment to work done, unless you and the Center have agreed that you will not receive statements.
If the estimated time and costs turn out to be insufficient to complete the work, the Center will ask you to provide another advance payment to cover the estimated additional time and costs, which will begin after the advance payment is received.  If the advance for hourly work turns out to me more than actual amounts billed, the surplus will be returned to you at the conclusion of the engagement.
For very lengthy engagements that continue into a successive year or even multiple years, the Center’s hourly rates may change during the course of our assistance to you.  In such a case, we will notify you prior to applying the new rates – generally beginning with time incurred in January.
Other Costs:  In addition to time, unless otherwise agreed in writing, clients are responsible for costs and expenses such as deed recording fees, court filing fees, sheriff’s service fees, express delivery charges, highway tolls, parking fees, and automobile mileage at the then-current IRS business rate.
The total price for your work will be based upon the complexity and amount of counseling involved in the case.  Every engagement is different.  Sometimes it is not possible to anticipate the complete variety of services that may be required.  Failure to pay the firm’s bill may result in the Center’s decision to withdraw from further assistance and representation, although you will be responsible for any unpaid fees and expenses incurred up to that time.
Change Orders
In some engagements, legal services become needed or desired that are unusual or were for some other reason not included in the original engagement.  Sometimes this is the result of clients having provided incomplete or inaccurate information to us when we were developing our analysis and recommendations, so the original engagement did not include important considerations.  Sometimes new circumstances arise during the course of an engagement, no matter how exactly the original engagement agreement was based on accurate client information at the time.  If such circumstances occur, we will provide you with a Change Order detailing the circumstances and how this will impact the pricing and process.  While it is unusual for a Change Order to be issued, it is not surprising when circumstances change that require an adjustment to this agreement.  We will not proceed with these extra services without your written approval so that you will not incur prices or services you did not intend to.
Multiple Representation (For Example, Couples and Families)
A conflict can arise in the course of representing multiple clients, including a married couple or a family.  The Center, its attorneys and its staff cannot take sides or be partial to one or the other client, or represent one to the detriment of the other.  Similarly, we cannot keep secrets of one client from the other, but rather must be free to share information of one client with the other.  Our assistance to each client needs to be a true team effort.  Multiple clients certainly may have somewhat different goals and provisions in their individual plans, which most couples and families do.  However, if secrets or incompatible differences arise, or we believe that a legal conflict of interest is developing, the Center and its attorneys may need to withdraw and recommend that each client consult separate, independent legal counsel.
We hope that you find this discussion of pricing for our assistance helpful for understanding the several ways in which the Center's prices for services are structured.

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The Maine Center for Elder Law is a practice of Perkins Thompson, P.A. The Center assists clients with Medicaid (MaineCare) Planning, Special Needs Planning, Estate Planning, and Probate, Estate & Trust Administration matters in York County, Cumberland County and nearby Maine counties.

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