Attorney May Charge No More Than $1,500 for Routine Chapter 7 Case, Florida Court Rules

15 Apr Attorney May Charge No More Than $1,500 for Routine Chapter 7 Case, Florida Court Rules

In the case of In re Gonzalez, 2009 WL 748912 (Bky.M.D.Fla. Feb. 11, 2009), a Florida bankruptcy court held that an attorney was allowed to charge no more than $1,500 for a routine chapter 7 case, in which no unusual legal research had to be performed, and in which no novel legal issues arose.  The court therefore ordered the debtor’s attorney to return the excess $550 of the $2,050 fee paid by the debtor.

The court noted that the deputy court clerk had performed an empirical study of attorney fees typically charged in the Tampa Division by various law firms for chapter 7 bankruptcy cases.  The study revealed this figure to be $1,000.  The court therefore concluded that $1,500 was the maximum fee an attorney in the Fort Meyers Division could charge for a typical chapter 7 case. 

Although the attorney in this case presented time records justifying his fee, based his expenture of 8.13 hours of time billed at $250 per hour, the court nevertheless imposed the $1,500 maximum fee.  The record in the case showed that it was routine, with no contested matters or other proceedings requiring the presence of the debtor or his attorney at any hearings.

The court held that the attorney’s time records were insufficient to rebut the presumption that this was anything more than a routine chapter 7 case requiring $1,500 worth of an attorney’s time.  Because no additional services were needed by the debtor beyond those needed for an average case, the attorney was ordered to return the excess $550 to the debtor.

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Craig W. Andresen is a consumer bankruptcy lawyer in Bloomington, Minnesota, with 22 years’ experience in consumer and small business bankruptcy cases. He is the Minnesota chair of the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys, and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association’s Bankruptcy Section. Mr. Andresen lectures often on the topic of consumer bankruptcy at local and national legal seminars.
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