How the Firm Determines the Fees it Charges?
In most cases, the Firm determines its fees primarily on the basis of the time expended multiplied by the standard billing rate of the professional involved. Occasionally, the Firm will apply a premium billing rate where there is weekend or holiday work or other extraordinary circumstances. The Firm will always inform the client whenever this occurs.
In an appropriate situation, the Firm may agree to flat fee, percentage (where this is permitted), or incentive billing arrangements with a client. These arrangements are not the Firm's normal billing practices and should be the exception rather than the rule. The Firm always requires a detailed written retainer agreement whenever these types of billing arrangements are in effect. Percentage arrangements are generally not permitted in Monaco.
In some cases, where the Firm has spent considerable time and effort developing a special expertise and maintaining that expertise, the time involved does not always reflect the value of the services rendered. In such situations, the Firm bills on a project basis which is primarily a minimum flat fee for the work involved. An example of this might be securities laws opinions for transactions taking place in Monaco. There are no private placement exemptions in Monaco, and the Firm, in ongoing consultations with the Government, has developed an understanding with the Government as to when, and under what circumstances, private placements conducted in Monaco can be undertaken pursuant to an administrative tolerance of those activities.
The Firm also charges for all separately identifiable costs associated with the services rendered. These costs include: long distance telephone, courier service, postage, outgoing faxes, filing fees, travel costs, translation fees, filing fees, photocopying, the charges of local professionals, etc. Where the anticipated amount of a disbursement for a client is sizable, such as, for example, court reporter's fees for a deposition transcript, printing costs on an appeal, or local professional's fees, the Firm may, instead, ask the client to pay it in advance or arrange for its payment directly with the provider of the goods or services involved.
Whatever the billing arrangements, as New York lawyers, the Firm is usually required under recently enacted Court Rules applicable to New York attorneys, to have a written retainer agreement with its client when the fee is expected to exceed $3000. Among other things, the retainer agreement defines the scope of the assignment and makes reference to the policies set forth in this section. Even in those situations where the Rules do not require a written retainer agreement, the Firm frequently prefers a written agreement to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings. Where the client has a long standing relationship with the Firm, to the extent the Rules may permit, the Firm may determine that such an agreement is not necessary in view of the course of dealing. Even if the Rules might not require a written retainer agreement, the Firm will always provide on when the client requests.
The Firm's Billing Records
The Firm uses the TimeSlips Time and Billing program in all its offices. The Firm's time keepers are required to keep careful track of their time using this program and to submit their time records in TimeSlips format on a regular basis to the Firm's billing department. The TimeSlips program keeps track of the date on which the service was rendered, the provider of the service, a description of the service performed, the time it took to perform the service, and the customary rate of the service provider. Similarly, disbursements are entered into this program.
The Firm's billing records are largely incorporated into the statements it sends it clients. However, whenever there is a question, the Firm is always happy to provide the basic records for the client's review.
Form and Frequency of the Firm's Statements
Normally, the Firm submits statements on a monthly basis, unless the Firm and the client agree to some other billing frequency. The format of the statement is divided into several parts: time charges, disbursements, payments and credits, an aging of any open balances, and, if the client has a retainer account, the status of that account.
The time charges section normally indicates the date on which the service was rendered, the provider of the service, a description of the service performed, the time it took to perform the service, and the customary rate of the service provider. The Firm has considerable flexibility in the way it presents this information, and, if a client has a special need, it can usually be accommodated. The disbursements section similarly lists the date of the transaction, a brief description of it, and the amount. There are separate totals for time charges and for disbursements. Where there are multiple matters, each matter and its charges are separately identified. Normally, statements are mailed in the early days of the month for the work done and disbursements incurred the prior month.
Payment of the Firm's Statements
The Firm's statements are payable on receipt. If there are any questions the client is, of course, free to raise them and withhold payment of a reasonable amount of the statement pending their resolution. As the Firm bases its rates on the assumption its clients pay their statements promptly on receipt and it does not want to penalize the greater bulk of its clients who follow this practice, if any part of a statement is outstanding for more than 30 days without good reason, the Firm adds a rebilling charge equal to 1.5% of the overdue amount to the next bill. Any such charge is clearly identified as such on the statement.
Sometimes, particularly with new clients or clients with a difficult payment history, the Firm will require an advance retainer that it will bill against. In this case, the Firm will deduct the amount of the statement from the then current balance of the retainer, if any. The Firm then expects the client, within a reasonable time of its receipt of each monthly statement, to restore the retainer account to its agreed balance. Should the relationship with the client terminate for any reason, any used balance of the retainer account will be promptly refunded. Until such time, any such balance may be used without restriction.
The usual currencies in which the Firm bills are United States Dollars for its US offices, the Euro and the US Dollar for its Monaco office, and the Mexican Peso and the US Dollar for its Mexico City office. However, when there is a prior agreement with the client, the Firm can bill in any major currency. Occasionally, the Firm may bill in British pounds, Japanese Yen, Canadian Dollars, to mention some of the other currencies in which it works. Payments can normally be in any currency so long as the translated amount, on the date of receipt, substantially reflects the amount of the billing currency. If there is a significant unfavorable variance, the foreign currency risk is for the client's account. Payments may be made by check, subject to collection, or by bank transfer. The Firm is happy to provide clients with wire transfer instructions, if they prefer this means of payment.
Value Added and Sales Taxes
At present, there are no sales or other such taxes applicable to bills rendered by the Firm's New York offices. However, value added tax ("TVA") may apply to bills rendered through the Firm's Monaco office to clients in the European Union. Unless a suitable exemption from TVA is available, all amounts billed to such client shall be subject to TVA at the then prevailing rate, which is currently 19.6%. In most cases, a commercial client who pays TVA should be able to offset the TVA paid on the Firm's bills against other TVA the client may receive and, possibly, receive a refund from their host country for excess TVA payments.
Resolution of Fee Disputes
Many disputes relating to the Firm's fees may be arbitrated pursuant to Part 137 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, which may be viewed by clicking on the preceding link. A downloadable PDF version of these Rules my be found at the immediately prior link. If there is any dispute regarding any statement or its payment, the Firm expects the client to work in good faith with the Firm towards its prompt and equitable resolution. So long as this is being done, the Firm will not interrupt any services it is then providing. Should the Firm and the client fail to resolve things in this manner, to the extent not covered by Part 137 of the Rules of the Chief Administrator of the Courts, the dispute shall be resolved by arbitration in the English language before a single arbitrator in New York according to the then prevailing Commercial Rules of Arbitration of the American Arbitration Association. The Firm reserves the right to suspend or withhold further services, should any fee dispute require arbitration.
Firm Personnel Billing Rates
The present billing rates for the Firm's personnel currently range from $100 per hour for paralegal personnel to $800 per hour for senior partners. The billing rates for the Firm's personnel are available on request and are subject to change at any time. The current billing rates of the Firm's primary attorneys are listed on their respective pages that can be found at Firm Personnel.
Translation of Firm Work Product
When the Firm's primary work product is in a foreign language, such as, French (as might be the case for work done in the Firm's Monaco office or Spanish as might be the case for work done in the Firm's Mexico City office), the client might wish to receive a competent English language translation of all contracts, agreements, and other documents defining the client's legal rights or obligations. The Firm is pleased to provide such translations, but must charge for the cost of the translation. To save costs, a client might agree that English language summaries of other documents will be sufficient. Where translations are required, the Firm will attend to all necessary translation work, either through its staff, outside translators, or a combination thereof.
Use of Local Professionals
Sometimes, it is necessary, or desirable, for the Firm to engage local professionals, such as, accountants, notaires, avocats, barristers, and the like, to handle various aspects of the client's proposed local activities. This frequently occurs in international transactions or in transactions that involve multiple jurisdictions, even within the same country. The Firm will work with the client to coordinate the activities of these local professionals and keep the client appropriately informed of their activities and the results achieved. Unless otherwise agreed, these local professionals will look to the client for payment and bill the client directly for any services rendered. Because of B&D's Lex Mundi and TAGLaw memberships discussed elsewhere on this site, the Firm is usually always able to recommend highly competent local professionals with whom the Firm already has an existing relationship.