We charge a fixed, set fee for certain legal services, such as $25,000 for requesting a due process hearing to challenge the program, placement and services offered or being provided by a school to a child who is eligible for special education services. This includes all legal services required to file the case through seeing it to a verdict in the Office of Administrative Law.
Why not a Flat Fee?
A flat fee comes with a guarantee that you’ll never have to pay any more. Some education proceedings, such as mediation or solely attending an IEP meeting or a settlement conference, are appropriate for flat fees. A structured fee is appropriate where the total fees likely to accrue is unpredictable, but the Firm can expect to be paid at the end of the case. It’s not a “flat fee” because, even though you never have to pay more, you may choose a course, such a settlement involving a fee waiver, that creates an obligation for additional payment to the firm.
On a structured fee agreement, if we win at the end, we will seek an award of attorneys’ fees and reimburse our client proportional to the fixed fee paid as a portion of the full value of our fees. For example, if a client pays $25,000, the full value is $75,000, but the court only awards $50,000, we will reimburse the client 2/3 of the fixed fee. If we do not prevail, the difference between the value of our legal services and the set fee paid is waived. So win or lose, with one important exception related to settlement (see below), the client never has to pay more than the initial set fee.
It’s important for the right to settle the case to remain firmly and solely in the client’s hands. But oftentimes, school districts in New Jersey will demand a waiver of prevailing party fees as a condition of settlement. If the Firm is relying on those fees, and the client waives them, then the Firm must have recourse.
So if the client settles and if, by that settlement, waives the right to seek prevailing party fees, the client becomes responsible to the Firm for the fees waived. The same is true if the client walks away from the case before it’s over, or if we lose at the hearing, and the Firm offers to pursue an appeal for no additional charge, but the client refuses. In other words, if the client in any way impairs the Firm’s ability to obtain additional fees, then the client assumes responsibility for them. But if the client does not settle, or does settle but does not waive fees, then the client has no further liability for our fees, win or lose.