© 2021 Oscar E. Toscano, Attorney at Law
Over the last 46 years, attorney Oscar E. Toscano has been earning trust and saving people money by helping them with their legal matters. If you are looking for a practical, no nonsense, reasonably priced and highly qualified tiger in the courtroom that will save you a lot of money and emotional distress, then attorney Toscano is willing to help.
Attorney Oscar E. Toscano is listed as a preeminent lawyer and has been on the list of SuperLawyers in Southern California for years. He is an AV rated lawyer, which is the highest rating for legal skills and legal ethics, according to Martindale Hubbell.
Clients seek the services of a lawyer in the worst days of their lives. Divorces, deaths, arrests, criminal cases for themselves or relatives, accidents, injuries, bankruptcies, evictions, and many other situations. You may need a lawyer. That's right, not having a lawyer, particularly during troubled times, can spell DISASTER! This does not mean they have to pay an arm and a leg for attorneys fees.
How lawyers bill for their time is a mystery to many people, including myself. Many years ago, Mr. Toscano wrote an article entitled “The mystery of the hourly fee” wherein he explores why attorneys fees are such mystery. Understanding how lawyers bill for their time will help you shop around and save money in attorneys fees, and that's what's important to him! Attorneys bill either a flat fee, an hourly fee, a contingency fee or a combination of the above.
In litigation, for every action there will be a huge reaction and escalation of attorneys fees. The magic is protecting your interests and keeping attorneys fees down. Mr. Toscano's ideas will save you money irrespective of who you hire at the end. However, you can’t control what your opponent will do. All you can do is be reasonable all along to maintain the attorneys fees down. If your opponent is unreasonable, the attorney can be sanctioned by the Court.
The flat fee is a one-time fee for specific work to be done. For example, in criminal cases a flat fee is charged for particular cases and for particular levels of work to be done. Many lawyers will charge you a flat fee but it will not include the trial itself. If that is the case, they have to tell you what is not included. Oscar E. Toscano, attorney at law, usually charges $2,500.00-$3,500.00 flat fee for all the pre-trial work to be done in misdemeanor cases. This includes the investigation of the case, the arraignment, the pre-trial conferences, negotiations, subpoenas, preparation of motions, as many court appearances as is needed (even if it is dozens of court appearances), but it does not include the actual trial itself. The actual trial itself will be extra depending on how long the trial is.
The flat fee will be different for felonies in criminal cases and the fee will depend on what the charges are, how many counts, how much work is anticipated, etc.
The danger in flat fees is that you must make sure to understand what is included in the flat fee. For example, does it include an appeal in case of an adverse decision? It usually does not. Does it include trial in case the case has to go to trial? Does it include the costs to be incurred? It usually does not. Does it include the fees for experts? It usually does not. Does it include the fee for associates anticipated to be hired? It should. On any event, you must protect yourself by demanding that all the work to be done for a flat fee be in writing.
The flat fee is not to be confused with a “retainer fee”.
A retainer is a deposit demanded in advance at the time that you hire a lawyer. In other words, you are paying for attorney time in advance. The deposit allows the attorney to work on your case immediately. Retainers are usually requested in all cases. What varies is the amount of the retainer and the class of Retainers requested. Pay close attention to whether the retainer is refundable or non-refundable. Non-refundable retainers means that you are paying a fee just for hiring the lawyer and it will not be refunded even if you change your mind in a few days. This is usually not a good deal for you. Refundable retainers are deposits and as the attorney works on your case, he draws on the deposit and pays himself. If the retainer is not used up, they the rest of the retainer must be returned to you.
The amount of the retainer requested should give you an indication of how expensive the attorney will be. You have a right to negotiate the retainer fee but it won’t change the total amount that you will be charged.
Attorneys use their time, experience and knowledge in order to work your case. Every time they work on your case, you get billed. You normally get billed for telephone calls, driving time to and from the office, reading letters, writing letters, etc. Some attorneys even charge you for sending a fax. The question is how much are they charging you to do particular projects? Are you being charged on increments of 1/4 of an hour. With today’s billing software, you could easily be charged on 1/10 of an hour basis and this simple difference will save you tons of money. Are you paying for research? How much? Why? Experienced attorneys rarely charge you for research because they already know the answers. To save money, use e-mail to ask questions and get answers, call only when it is essential, request a time-line of events to occur, be patient, provide a typed summary of your case, look at the court website (see resource page) for summaries of what is going on with your case, be truthful and provide all information requested.
There is a huge variation in attorneys fees. The fees will change from city to city and from attorney to attorney but hourly rates must be reasonable. The limitation in attorneys fees is subject to the rules of professional conduct. Rule 3-300 of the Rules of Professional Conduct applies to attorneys fees.1 In summary, the key is that the fee must be fair and reasonable, must be disclosed, and must be in writing. However, what is fair and reasonable? You must compare apples with apples. The experience of the attorney, the difficulty of the task involved, the market conditions, the overhead of the attorney, the education of the attorney, the reputation of the attorney and prior results obtained, among other things are factors to consider in deciding what is reasonable. This is confusing even to attorneys. Shop around and compare. You can call attorneys on the telephone and ask what their hourly rate is. Most will tell you what it is right on the phone. You have a right to negotiate the hourly fee. You will be amazed how often attorneys will lower their set hourly rates. This is true specially when there are so many attorneys in California.
People are under the misconception that the most expensive lawyer is the best lawyer. This is not true. In fact, how high the fee is has nothing to do with the quality of the work you receive. For example, if a new attorney, with limited experience, opens an office in Beverly Hills, or Mid-Wilshire, or in one of the new towers in Downtown Los Angeles, to create the image of success, or to attract wealthier clients, his overhead will be huge. Some of the newer buildings in Downtown Los Angeles charge you $40.00 for more than 2-3 hours just to park there. To meet the overhead, the new attorney will have no choice but to charge a higher hourly rate. Thus, young attorneys can be seen charging as much as Mr. Toscano charges (after 35 years in practice) because their overhead is huge.
Experience counts! Don’t pay for educating your attorney. Is your attorney charging you for “research”? Hire an experienced attorney. Even if the fee is a little higher, in the end, the experienced attorney will save you money.
There are statutes that authorize the Court to award attorneys fees to either party such as in family law cases. This can be a nightmare when you are trying to minimize attorneys fee when your opponent is trying to maximize attorneys fees by taking unreasonable positions. If your opponent is unreasonable, the attorney can be sanctioned by the Court. Check out this link for examples of sanctions and orders for attorneys fees made.
In family law cases, statutes allow an attorney to be hired with no retainer paid in advance. In exchange, the client signs a FLARPL. A FLARPL is like a mortgage on your home and makes sure the lawyer is paid whatever he charges you in the case out of the community real estate. If not paid, the attorney could foreclose on your home just like a mortgage holder would. FLARPS are subject to abuse. I do not use them in my office and I do not recommend them. If a lawyer is truly interested in your case and your well being, the lawyer can find a way to work with you without resorting to a FLARPL. Before you agree to a FLARPL, you have a right to talk to an independent attorney. Call Mr. Toscano for war stories of abuse. Instead, borrow from relatives, take the money out on a credit card, work out a payment plan, work out a smaller retainer, or find another way.
Dealing with FLARPLS, in the case of Hawk v. State Bar,(1988),45 Cal.3d 589, 600, the court pointed out as follows: "acquiring the ability to summarily extinguish the client's interest in property is what makes the acquisition `adverse'". Further, "[a]ll dealings between attorney and his client that are beneficial to the attorneys will be closely scrutinized with the utmost strictness for any unfairness. [Ritter v. State Bar, (1985), 40 Cal. 3d 595, 602]. Failure to give the clients time to seek independent counsel is not a mere technical violation." [Ritter, supra, at page 602]. In essence, when an attorney creates the right to collect disputed fees without prior judicial scrutiny, it is contrary to law. [Broackway v. State Bar, 1991, 53 Cal. 3d 51, 64; See Silver v. State Bar, (1974), 13 Cal. 3d 134, 139; In Beery v. State Bar, 1987, 43 Cal.3d 802, the California Supreme Court pointed out that an attorney "...must make it manifest that he gave to his client 'all that reasonable advice against himself that he would have given him against a third person." [Felton v. Le Breton (1891) 92 Cal. 457, 469; See also Estate of Witt (1926) 198 Cal. 407, 419; Gold v. Greenwald (1966) 247 Cal.App.2d 296, 305-306 ]. The burden of proof is always upon the attorney to show that the dealing was fair and just, and that the client was fully advised. [Beery, supra at Page 813]. The attorney-client relationship has been held to be "...a fiduciary relation of the very highest character..." [Neel v. Magana, Olney, Levy, Cathcart & Gelfand (1971) 6 Cal.3d 176, 189-190; Clancy v. State Bar (1969) 71 Cal.2d 140, 146?148], and "[o]ur principal concern is always the protection of the public, the preservation of confidence in the legal profession, and the maintenance of the highest possible professional standard for attorneys." Beery, supra at p. 816.
The law is on your side, but you must not sleep on your rights. Talk to another attorney before you decide what to do. The attorney works for you. Demand answers, put it in writing. What the above really means is that lawyers must charge a reasonable fee for the services rendered.
A contingency fee is a percentage of the recovery in your case. If there is no recovery, there is no fee. This makes it easier for individuals to pursue their rights in certain cases without having money to pay for attorney time in advance. Because of the high risk, few attorneys will take cases on a contingency basis unless they feel the case has merit. In accident cases, or serious injuries or deaths, attorneys will take the case on a contingency fee basis if there is insurance coverage.
In a contingency fee case, a client is not charged attorney fees if the client loses the case. In other words, the lawyer will work for free unless he succeeds in getting you some money. To compensate the attorney for working without the usual retainer fee in advance, a contingency fee can be agreed on in cases with insurance coverage, good liability and good injuries. For example in automobile accident cases, the attorney for the injured victim will usually charge 33 % if the case settles before a lawsuit is filed, 40 % after a lawsuit is filed and 45 % if the case has to go to a trial. Attorneys fees are negotiable. So negotiate your fee with your attorney. Be careful, the costs incurred are not usually part of the contingency fee and are added to the percentage to be paid when the case settles and money is collected. Mr. Toscano has no problem negotiating with you regarding my fees depending on the case.
Finally, in the law office of Oscar E. Toscano, you are the boss. Mr. Toscano works for you and not the other way around. He will give you the best legal, creative, and practical advice but in the end, you decide what you want to do and I protect your interest. Attorney Oscar E. Toscano charges you reasonable rates. Shop around and compare his highest qualifications in legal skills and ethical standards and experience with other attorneys of comparable experience and legal skills and you will realize that he is very REASONABLE.
Attorney Oscar E. Toscano looks forward to meeting you. He likes to develop a warm, professional lasting relationship with his clients. Mr. Toscano aims to do a great job and at the same time save you money. He tries to protect you from yourself and often advises you against the course of action you may want to take because it will not be productive. Mr. Toscano will protect you from others, and the unnecessary attorney time and related bills. He takes a practical, no nonsense approach and saves you money. Mr. Toscano believes an ounce of preventative legal action can prevent litigation. An ounce of common sense and practicality can minimize the cost of litigation. Litigation is a business decision. Don’t let your ego and your pride drive attorneys fees through the roof. Be practical. If all fails, Oscar E. Toscano, attorney at law, is a tiger in the courtroom.
1 "A member shall not enter into a business transaction with a client; or knowingly acquire an ownership, possessory, security, or other pecuniary interest adverse to a client, unless each of the following requirements has been satisfied:
(A) The transaction or acquisition and its terms are fair and reasonable to the client and are fully disclosed and transmitted in writing to the client in a manner which should reasonably have been understood by the client; and
(B) The client is advised in writing that the client may seek the advice of an independent lawyer of the client's choice and is given a reasonable opportunity to seek that advice; and
(C) The client thereafter consents in writing to the terms of the transaction or the terms of the acquisition." (Emphasis added).