Fees and Policies that Apply to All Clients
FEES QUOTED ARE FOR ONLINE SERVICES ONLY. FEES FOR IN-OFFICE
SERVICES ARE MARKET RATE WHICH IS HIGHER THAN THE ONLINE AMOUNT.
These Fees and Policies Substitute for a Written Engagement Letter
This section contains our non-negotiable terms of service. Please read it carefully. Fees and policies stated below apply to all attorney-client relationships with all clients in place of written fee agreements or engagement letters. By engaging our firm, you unconditionally agree to all of these policies without exception exactly as if you had signed a written fee agreement. No exceptions. Please print out this section for your records. Let us know if you have questions or concerns about our fees and policies before hiring us.
Services and Fees Generally
Fees are usually quoted as flat fees plus costs (such as filing fees, the cost of an LLC company book from the printer, etc.). Flat fees are strictly limited in scope to the subject item plus corrections and reasonable follow-up within the immediate time frame (one week). Unrelated matters require payment of a separate fee.
We have a two-track fee schedule – discounted fees for online services and higher market-rate fees for in-office services. Weekend and holiday services incur an additional 20% charge. In-office consults are always available, but lower-priced services are handled more efficiently online (usually within 24 business hours) supplemented by phone as needed. All fees are subject to change at any time without notice.
Online Inquiry Process
The online inquiry process is fast and efficient. Go to Contact Us. Let us know basic details in 200 words or less. We will respond promptly with no-charge preliminary comments (not a full consultation or formal legal opinion) including a confirmation that we handle your type of case. The next step, if you choose to proceed, is a paid consultation which includes a detailed review of your circumstances and documents (you will need to email or fax these to us) along with suggestions for action.
Before our consultation, we ask that you read our web article that addresses your legal issue. This is a vital part of our process. You will get much more out of our consultation if you are first acquainted with basic law and procedure.
Note that the Client Inquiry Form is intended for those wishing to monetarily engage an attorney to provide legal services. We regret that we do not have the resources to provide free Q&A services to the non-client public.
We have two ironclad rules: (1) we are unable to download and read your documents, create a file for you, place your case on our docket, prepare and ship documents to you, or provide any substantial legal advice until payment is made; and (2) we terminate discussions with any client who unreasonably seeks a discount, special deal, package rate, or the like. Our fees are competitive but this is not a discount law firm.
|Residential Real Estate Consultation
|Commercial Real Estate Consultation
|Consult on pending litigation
|Asset protection review (APR)
|Real Estate Documents
||$175 & up
||$250 & up
|LLC (TX or NV) – Traditional LLC
|LLC (TX or NV) – Series LLC
|Anonymity LLC with Investor Trust
|Anonymity LLC with Living Trust
|Litigation Retainer (Minimum)
Flat fees for the many other services we offer are detailed below. They are subject to change at any time without notice. Note that discounted online fees reflect the difference in operating costs per square foot per hour. Please do not request in-office services and expect to pay the online fee. We reserve the right to determine which manner of payment is acceptable and which is not in any given case.
Scope of the Initial Consultation
There are no artificial time limits on the online consultation so long as its scope and length are reasonable. However, the online consult is not a long-term retainer and must occur within the immediate time frame (one week) in order to be included in the consultation fee. During that time we discuss the case until legal advice and guidance are substantially complete. Follow-up questions in the immediate time frame (one week) are included. In-office consultations are limited to 60 minutes.
Types of Consultations
Real estate law consultation – residential or commercial. Documents are reviewed, the case is evaluated, options are explained, and a course of action is recommended. We need to see all your relevant paperwork to advise you since we cannot offer advice on documents we have not seen. Documents and correspondence should be emailed or faxed to (832) 201-5321. Our "reasonableness requirement" (see below) applies to the quantity of this documentation.
Asset protection review ("APR"). This is a good starting point if a client is uncertain about what action to take to establish a business structure and/or defend assets. The APR includes an analysis of your circumstances and goals with recommendations for action, so you will need to prepare a brief list of assets, liabilities, and any legal action that may be pending. The fee is $250 for an online APR and $350 for an in-office APR. Our "reasonableness requirement" (see below) applies to the quantity of this documentation.
Payment of Fees and Costs
Advance payment is required. Fees quoted always exclude filing fees and other costs. Payment is by credit/debit, wire, cash, or direct deposit at our bank. Checks (whether personal or business) are no longer accepted (either for online or in-office services) because of the epidemic of fraud and bad checks. We may, at our options, accept cashiers checks or money orders from known vendors. E-checks are not accepted because of the length of time (3 to 5 days) required for them to clear. Go to Make Payment for options.
Consultation and APR fees are not applied as credits toward future services.
We strive for maximum transparency in specifying fees and costs on this site. If you are ready to move forward, please make the appropriate payment and we will begin action on your file within one business day. Of course, if you are unclear as to fees or costs in your particular case, do not hesitate to ask.
Reasonableness. Occasionally we have a client who seeks a $150 consultation or a $250 APR but then accompanies the request with a very lengthy list of questions and a hundred pages of single-spaced legal documents for us to read and analyze. That is not reasonable at such a low fee level. We reserve the right to determine what is a reasonable scope of work for any flat fee we charge and then, if necessary, increase the fee, convert to an hourly arrangement, or decline the representation and refund the unused portion of the payment.
Consultation vs. retainer. Clients who have not used an attorney before may be unaware of the difference between a consultation versus a retainer. A consultation is just that – a discussion and review of your circumstances, documents, and options. It then concludes. It is not a retainer for ongoing advice and legal services into the indefinite future. The same applies to document preparation. Doc prep fees are for document drafting/correction in the immediate time frame (one week). This service then concludes. Doc prep fees are not retainers for the long-term (example: asking us to make changes to documents months later will incur a re-draft fee). Doc prep fees do not include additional services such as negotiations with an opposing party.
Long-term retainers. If a client wishes to retain a lawyer for an indefinite or lengthy period, it is certainly possible to do so, but payment of a retainer fee in proportion to the size and duration of the transaction is appropriate. Initial flat fee retainers range from $550 to $5,500.
Hypothetical questions. We prefer not to respond to academic, hypothetical, or general questions. Real estate and asset protection lawyers answer questions concerning specific circumstances and specific documents. That is the nature of our business.
Flat fees vs. hourly fees. This is a flat-fee office for the most part. When hourly billing is appropriate – usually in litigation – the rate is $250 per hour for out-of-court time and $350 per hour for in-court time. Legal fees never include costs such as county or district clerk´s filing fees, court reporters, mediators´ fees, overnight delivery, and other costs.
No contingency fees. We do not accept contingency fee cases. Such arrangements are usually offered by personal injury attorneys who eventually collect settlements from insurers with deep pockets – which is not true of real estate and business lawyers whose services are fee-based.
Compare our fees. You are encouraged to compare our fees with those charged by other board-certified lawyers with many years experience (This does not include non-lawyer internet sites such as LegalZoom or "guru" investor sites, which we view as toxic waste). Our fees are reasonable in light of our unique specialties and the availability of fast services online. We produce first-rate documents and services for fees that are often half of those charged by large downtown firms.
Email Professionalism: Things to Avoid
Chatting. Occasionally, clients or potential clients misunderstand this firm´s role in the online marketplace and seek to utilize us as a free legal chat site. In spite of our significant online presence and our determination to supply an unprecedented amount of free information (by means of our website articles), we remain a business that sells legal advice, documents, and services, so – beyond making preliminary comments – we respectfully decline to engage in lengthy or prolonged back-and-forth communications on an unpaid basis.
Dribbling. Many clients use handheld devices rather than keyboards and find it convenient to send us multiple short or fragmented bursts of information, often over a period of days or weeks. Occasionally these communications come from more than email address. This can make our job difficult since we receive many emails each day. To make matters worse, some devices are notorious for dropping text attachments and may not provide an email thread, so we can find ourselves at a loss as to context. Our conclusion? Real estate law is serious business and should probably not be conducted entirely by portable device or from multiple sources. Please take the time to get to a computer so we can communicate professionally. Send one or two comprehensive instructional emails with all relevant attachments that make it clear what we are being asked to do or what documents we are being asked to prepare. Then make payment. We will respond promptly.
Cloak & Dagger. This occurs when we receive emails that are not addressed to a specific person and are unsigned. This is unacceptable in a business email.
Looping. This occurs when a client decides to include our firm (unwillingly) in the loop with all other persons who may have an interest in a particular transaction. The result is that we are copied on multiple emails from persons we do not know. Please do not do this without express permission.
Bombardment. This is when a client engages us for a consultation or APR and then overwhelms us with an excessive quantity of emails, attachments, and unnecessary information wholly out of proportion to the scope of the consultation. Please keep our reasonableness requirement in mind and refrain from this.
Shouting. Sending an email in all capital letters is universally considered rude and the equivalent of shouting.
TextTalk. Business email is held to a higher standard of professionalism than personal email or texting. Correct spelling and grammar are advised. Never use TextTalk abbreviations (e.g., "ur" for "your") or other digital slang.
Rambling. A business email should get to the point and generally not exceed 200 words. It should be broken into discrete paragraphs. If more content needs to be transmitted, it should be done in the form of attachments.
Center of the Universe. Professional offices often encounter clients who send emails as if that client were the only person communicating with the firm by email – when in fact businesses receive dozens of emails per day. "Center of the Universe" emails are often unaddressed, unsigned, vague as to content, separated by days or weeks, and devoid of an email thread to which the firm can refer – all adding up to unrealistic assumptions on the part of the sender that (1) the firm has no one else to communicate with; and (2) we have been keeping the sender´s case first and foremost in our thoughts since their last email a week or a month ago (which may be hundreds of emails back).
If you are not fully familiar with sound business email standards and practices, please read our brief outline on Email Professionalism. We ask that clients comply with these standards
Company Formation Fees (Texas and Nevada LLC´s)
Texas and Nevada series limited liability companies are a specialty of ours. Note that 90% of the new companies we form are series companies because of simplicity, economy, and flexibility for future operations. However, we are still occasionally asked to form a traditional LLC and are glad to do so. For the most part, corporations are obsolete in real estate investment and asset protection.
Prices are quoted in terms of flat legal fees plus costs (which are beyond our control and subject to change at any time without notice). Company books with seal and membership certificates are part of the package that we pass along to you at our cost. We insert our own sophisticated documentation into these books (instructions, minutes, company agreement, etc.) designed to maximize asset protection. We are confident you will be pleased with the end product.
Questions, corrections, and minor revisions within the immediate time frame (7 calendar days) are included in our fees. However, major re-writes or the creation of custom documentation substantially different from what we usually provide are not included.
Our usual policy is not to work with or utilize LLC documents prepared by others. The reason is that 90% of what we see from other sources, including law firms, is simply not up to our standards. We do not want the potential liability. We do offer clients the opportunity to re-document their existing traditional LLC´s for $550 plus costs (see below).
Texas LLC Formation
Legal fees for LLC formation in Texas are $850 (traditional LLC) or $1,250 (Series LLC) plus the filing fee ($325), $90 for the company book (our cost – includes black vinyl notebook, seal, and custom membership certificates – or recommended leatherette upgrade available at $140), and $20 domestic shipping by UPS ground (overnight/air is $20 additional). An in-office traditional LLC is $1,200. An in-office Series LLC is $1,500. You must supply your own registered agent with a physical street address in Texas (not a POB or UPS box) unless you wish to engage this firm in that capacity at an annual fee of $250. EIN is not included – but it is easily obtained at irs.gov.
Anonymity Company Formation
This is our proprietary system for utilizing an "anonymity trust" (our term) in connection with the LLC filing in order to maintain the client´s anonymity in the Certificate of Formation. No one else does this or, so far as we know, has even thought of it. The anonymity trust agreement is included (Note: the anonymity trust is not suitable for owning the homestead – see next option involving a living trust).
Fees are $2,500 (traditional LLC) or $3,500 (Series LLC) plus the filing fee ($325 with expedited handling), $90 for the company book (our cost – includes black vinyl notebook, seal, and custom membership certificates – or recommended leatherette upgrade available at $140), $20 domestic shipping by UPS ground (overnight/air is $20 additional), and $250 annual fee for registered agent services. In-office fees are $500 over these two amounts. EIN not included – but that is easily obtained at irs.gov.
Anonymity Company Formation with Living Trust for the Homestead
This is our proprietary system for utilizing a living trust in connection with the LLC filing in order to achieve two purposes: (1) maintain the client´s anonymity in state filings by designating the trust as initial manager and sole member; and (2) the trust is specifically worded to take title to the client´s homestead and avoid probate. Living trust agreement and deed into trust included. Accordingly, the living trust is both the sole member and manager of the LLC and the owner of the homestead – an outstanding combined structure. Online fees are $3,500 (traditional LLC) or $4,500 (Series LLC) plus the filing fee ($325), $90 for the company book (our cost – includes black vinyl notebook, seal, and custom membership certificates – or recommended leatherette upgrade available at $140), $20 domestic shipping by UPS ground (overnight/air is $20 additional), and $250 annual fee for registered agent services. The in-office fee is $500 over these two amounts. EIN not included – but that is easily obtained at irs.gov.
Nevada Series LLC Formation
An excellent way to own and hold assets. Online fees for LLC formation in Nevada are $850 (traditional LLC) or $1,250 (Series LLC) plus $290 in costs, which include the $200 filing and expedited handling fee (regular processing is too slow), $90 for the company book (our cost – includes black vinyl notebook, seal, and custom membership certificates – recommended leatherette upgrade available at $140), and $20 domestic shipping by UPS ground (overnight/air is $20 additional). An in-office traditional NV LLC is $1,200. An in-office NV Series LLC is $1,500. EIN not included – but that is easily obtained at irs.gov. Note that a Nevada LLC is not recommended for a management company for Texas properties since it would then have to pay expensive fees to register and do business in Texas. We suggest using a Nevada company for a holding company instead.
The Nevada registered agent is a UPS store with whom we have an established relationship. They charge approximately $375 per year. This supplies your company with both a mailing address (on W. Sahara Drive in Las Vegas) and registered agent services at that same address. Please do not request a different R/A. There are no franchise taxes in Nevada, but after establishing an LLC the state will require payment of an annual business license fee (subject to change) of $200.
Conversion of Traditional Texas LLC to Series LLC
Some clients request that we convert a traditional Texas LLC to a series company. We generally discourage this option since older entities often come with "baggage" (debts, liabilities, contractual obligations, taxes owed, etc.) but under certain circumstances it may be acceptable. Online fee is $1,150 excluding filing fee of $175 and any other costs (e.g., company book and shipping). The in-office fee is $1,500 plus costs.
Re-Documenting an Existing Traditional LLC
If you have formed a traditional LLC with a minimal "one pager" filing and have no company book, no organizational minutes, no company agreement, and no membership certificates, you are not fully established or protected. We will document your traditional LLC with these items and provide complete operating instructions. EIN not included – but that is easily obtained at irs.gov. Online fee is $550 plus $90 for the (vinyl) company book, $140 for the leatherette. The in-office fee is $750 plus the cost of the company book.
Total Structural Reorganization
Clients occasionally request that we take their existing complicated structure (often consisting of numerous LLC´s, corporations, and limited partnerships) and overhaul it to create a simplified but effective asset protection program. This is usually a major project. Fees (not costs) begin at $2,500 and are deposited as an initial retainer with supplemental deposits expected.
From time to time, we may have an inventory of existing, established companies that are ready for immediate shipment. These are premium companies specially designed by this office to include unique anonymity and asset protection features, EIN´s, assumed name certificates, and (in some cases) bank accounts. Fees are higher. All sales of shelf companies are final. For our current inventory, see shelf companies.
Optional Add-Ons to Company Formation
Deeding Properties into your LLC or Trust: specially crafted deeds for this purpose are $225 excluding recording fees. If three or more properties are involved, the fee per deed drops to $175. Assumption deeds and other complex deeds are used occasionally, and these are $275. Add $50 if the legal description is a metes and bounds rather than a simple lot and block. Clients usually do their own recording in the county records. Add $50 plus the applicable recording fees (approx. $24 depending on county) if you ask that we do the recording. New feature: if you want anonymity on these deeds, we can create an anonymity trust to hold title on behalf of either an LLC or one of its series. Cost is $550 including the deed. For more details, see our article Deeding Property to an LLC.
Management and consulting contracts to facilitate capital flow between companies (strongly recommended for the two-company structure): add $175 per agreement for a total of $350. Note: the management agreement and the consulting agreement are real, full-length contracts usually are priced (online) at $350 each.
Equity stripping. This is a technique for reducing the worth of your company in the public records. Why do this? To deter creditors and lawsuits. We will prepare a line of credit Promissory Note for up to one million dollars (payable to an existing Nevada company) that is backed by a Deed of Trust & Security Agreement to be filed in the public records. You will of course also receive a signed Release of Note and Lien for you to hold and file whenever you choose to do so. $450 excluding filing fees. A useful strategy for making your company appear to be a undesirable target.
Attorney serving as registered agent in Texas (to receive official mail and accept service of process from the constable): $250 annually per company. Signing of Assumed Name Certificates (state or county) not included, since this may expose us to liability. For Nevada companies we arrange for you to pay direct to our registered agent on West Sahara Ave. in Las Vegas. We are not in the loop for this. Note: We reserve the right to decline to file formation paperwork that lists a competing asset protection law firm as registered agent or otherwise threatens the proprietary nature of our documents.
Upgrade to black and red leatherette company book (display quality): $140 rather than $90 for the vinyl version. Our cost. Recommended.
Single-Purpose Residential Real Estate Documents
Residential documents newly drawn up (e.g., simple warranty deeds and the like – note that the doc prep fee does not include clerk´s filing fees or negotiation/representation in the transaction):
Residential warranty deeds (simple): $225 (excluding county clerk´s filing fees)
Add $50 to the cost of a document if there is a "metes and bounds" legal description that needs to be re-keyed by us. In-office fees are double the above-quoted online amounts.
Residential warranty deeds (complex – e.g., assumption deeds): $275
Residential deeds in lieu of foreclosure: $325
Residential deeds of trust: $225 (add $25 if we are named as trustee)
Residential real estate lien note: $225
Residential release of note and lien: $175
Residential earnest money contract: $350
Residential lease (does not include representation in the transaction): $350
Residential lease-option: $550 – Read Lease-Options in Texas
Residential option addendum for attachment to existing lease: $225
Residential lease-purchase: $550 – Read Lease-Purchase in Texas
Residential lease-purchase addendum for attachment to existing lease: $225
Residential partition agreements dividing community property: $350
Residential affidavit of heirship (does not include deed from heirs): $375
Residential affidavit of adverse possession: $375
Residential combination adverse possession/heirship affidavit: $450
Residential documents review/comment (we point out weak areas and make suggestions but do not re-write the document): $150
Commercial Real Estate – Online Fees
Commercial documents newly drawn up (note that a doc prep fee does not include filing fees or negotiation/representation in the transaction):
Commercial earnest money contract: $750 – $1,200
Add $50 to the cost of any document if there is a "metes and bounds" legal description that needs to be re-keyed by us. In-office fees are double the above-quoted online amounts.
Commercial warranty deeds (simple): $325
Commercial warranty deeds (complex): $375
Commercial promissory note: $375
Commercial deeds of trust: $550 – add $50 additional if the attorney is named as trustee
Commercial deeds of trust with security agreement: $575 – add $50 additional if the attorney is named as trustee
Commercial lease newly drawn up (does not include representation in the transaction): $750
Commercial documents review/comment (we point out weak areas and make suggestions but do not re-write the document): $250
Creative Transactions – Owner Finance, Wraps, and Land Trusts
One of our specialties is preparation of "creative" closing documents. Unfortunately, this has become a highly complex and regulated area of the law. Accordingly, our documents are not "forms" but complex, customized instruments designed to comply with the latest state and federal requirements. Examples of online fees for closing document packages:
Owner-finance transactions for paid-for properties (deed, note, and deed of trust): $750 (residential) and $1,500 (commercial).
Wraparounds (deed, wrap note, wrap deed of trust, and wrap agreement): $750 (residential) and $1,500 (commercial).
Land trusts ("exit trusts" – see our web article Land Trusts in Texas): $750 (residential) and $1,500 (commercial).
Add-on items. If the attorney is named to serve as trustee in a deed of trust, add $25 (residential) or $50 (commercial). If this office is asked to file documents, add the estimated filing fees plus $50.
Advance payment required. Fees for closing documents are payable in advance, not at closing (i.e., we do not take the risk that the transaction will not close) and always exclude filing fees. Our charges are for the documents only. Conduct of the closing itself is complementary and subject to the attorney´s schedule and location. Since this office sends closing documents all over Texas and the U.S. we cannot be present at the closing of every transaction. "Conference call" closings are usually a satisfactory alternative, so long as the client has a notary and a copier available on site.
This area can be complex and unpredictable, often depending on whether a judgment lien was abstracted before 9/1/07 or after. Results vary. Our online flat fee is $950 per lien. In the case of pre-07 A/J´s, there is no guarantee that litigation will not be required. In the case of post-07 A/J´s, there is no guarantee that a title company will cooperate and honor the statutory affidavit. Read our article Lien Removal in Texas before proceeding.
Trusts – Living Trusts, Land Trusts, and Anonymity Trusts
Living Trusts for the Homestead. $750 (residential) and $1,500 (commercial) not including the deed into the trust (necessary to complete the process) which is an additional $225 plus recording fees (approx. $28 depending on the county). Read Living Trusts in Texas.
Anonymity and Entry Trusts. $750 (residential) and $1,500 (commercial). Warranty deed not included. Read our articles Anonymity Alternatives in Texas Real estate and Land Trusts in Texas.
Residential Exit Trusts (investor sales): $750 (or $950 in-office). Warranty deed not included. Read Land Trusts in Texas.
Foreclosure and Evictions
Foreclosures. $950 for residential ($1,200 in-office) and $1,950 commercial ($2,500 in-office), excluding recording fees (approx. $70). Additional charges apply for travel to outlying counties. Read Foreclosures in Texas. Note: a debtor occasionally files bankruptcy to stop foreclosure at the last minute, after we have drafted all necessary paperwork, sometimes (literally) minutes before the sale, as we are standing on the courthouse steps. There is no refund to the client of foreclosure fees in the event of such last-minute bankruptcy filings.
Evictions. $950 for residential ($1,200 in-office) and $1,950 commercial ($2,500 in-office), excluding filing fees. Additional charges apply for travel to outlying counties. Read Evictions in Texas.
Eviction Appeals to County Court. $2,500 (non-jury) or $3,000 in-office, plus costs.
Document Preparation Generally – Important Comments
Online delivery. We are proud of our ability to deliver quality, customized documents in record time – usually within 24 to 48 business hours of receiving the necessary background information from the client. Document preparation is customarily handled online – so again, fees stated in this section are online (not in-office) fees unless expressly stated. In-office fees may be substantially higher.
Preparing documents vs. negotiating documents. Note this distinction. Flat doc prep fees do not include negotiating the terms of documents with other parties or their lawyers, since negotiation is a time-consuming function separate from merely drawing up a document. Doc prep fees cover delivery of the document and any client-requested changes or corrections within the immediate time frame (one week). Our responsibility then concludes.
Draft documents. We may send drafts of documents to the client to review. It is the client´s responsibility to read these drafts carefully and promptly make us aware of changes that need to be made. We gladly make these changes within the immediate time frame (7 calendar days); however, changes or "corrections" desired by the client after that time, or after delivery of final documents, will incur a re-draft fee of at least $50 per document plus any associated expenses.
Use of the attorney as trustee in real estate documents. Fees quoted are for drafting documents to the client´s specifications. Use of the attorney´s name as trustee (on a land trust, a deed of trust, a simultaneous conveyance, etc.) is not a free service. Acting as trustee can incur significant liability by making the attorney a target for potential litigation, and an appropriate charge (beginning at $25 for deeds of trust) is added to compensate for risk. We may decline to act as trustee in any transaction. We will not act as trustee on a document not prepared by this office.
Filing of documents that are emailed to clients. When we email real estate documents to a client, the client should execute the document before a notary, make copies for all concerned, and then (if the document is intended to be filed) file the original document in the county clerk´s real property records (there is a modest per-page recording fee that varies by county – check their website). The client may do the filing directly or, alternatively, the document may be returned to us and we will take this extra step. If we do the filing, add $50 to our fees plus the clerk´s filing fee (usually about $28 for a deed, more for longer docs) to the fee for the preparation of the document. We file documents by first-class mail in the usual course of business unless other prior arrangements are made for expedited delivery. Clients are always responsible for filing documents outside of the State of Texas, except for Nevada LLC docs.
Minor clerical errors on documents we have filed or documents received from the printing company. We take every reasonable precaution to avoid errors and will of course take action to correct major errors – defined as errors that have substantive legal effect. We are glad to email pages with corrections or changes. However, it is not our policy to re-file documents with clerks or otherwise incur expenses to correct minor clerical errors (e.g., a missing comma or the like) that have no substantive legal effect.
Document processing by clerks. Clerks vary widely in processing time and occasionally make mistakes – both on the phone and on their websites. These offices are chronically underfunded and understaffed. We cannot be responsible for delays or errors caused by a county clerk, district clerk, or a secretary of state, and we can never be precise as to the time it will take for a document to be processed in a clerk´s office and the original filed or returned.
Emergency doc prep on weekends and holidays. Legal documents may be available on weekends and holidays, by request and for an additional fee of 20%. All legal fees increase by 20% in the last 10 days of the calendar year because of the intense rush to complete company formation and transactions before December 31st. No discounts or credits of any kind are available during this time.
Proprietary documents. All documents produced by this office are proprietary and licensed to the client for use in a particular transaction only. The client does not purchase ownership of our documents or the right to use them in other transactions. Our documents may not be reproduced or re-used in any manner without permission. Accordingly, documents are supplied only in PDF form, not Word or WordPerfect. Please do not ask for forms or templates.
Doc Prep vs. Closing. This firm sells documents, it does not guarantee closings. Insuring that the deal "closes" is the responsibility of the participants. No refunds are made if a transaction fails to close.
Representation in Disputed Matters
Retainers for attempting to settle disputed non-court matters. Fees range from $550 to $5,500 depending on complexity. Included are a reasonable number of client conferences, letters, faxes, phone calls, emails, and limited document preparation involved in a diligent attempt to complete the task or settle the dispute with an opposing party or their attorney. Retainer expires in 60 days or when the attorney declares an impasse. Filing suit is not included.
Demand or Notice Letters. Clients occasionally ask that a legal demand or notice letter be written on their behalf. There are two options:
1. Attorney letter without follow-up. This option is the more limited of the two, and the online fee is $350. The in-office fee is $550. Responses to the letter will be forwarded to the client, but we are not retained for additional action.
2. Attorney letter with limited follow-up. In most cases, there is a reply to our demand letter, subsequent consultations with the client, and then additional correspondence, emails, and/or negotiations in an attempt to settle the dispute. A release may need to be drafted. Online fee for this option is $750. In-office fee is $1,500. Our "reasonableness" policy applies when defining "follow up" and any required doc prep. Expires in 60 days or when the attorney declares an impasse.
3. Attorney letter with indefinite retainer. $1,500 and up, computed hourly, with a 3 hour nonrefundable minimum. Supplementary retainers may be requested as the process moves forward.
Credibility Policy on Demand Letters. As a matter of ethics and professional credibility, we will not write a letter threatening a lawsuit unless the client has pledged to us in advance that he or she is willing to back it up with action. A substantial retainer deposit may be required.
Mediation. Our fees are $750 for attending a half-day mediation. Either Mr. Willis or a qualified associate may attend.
Real Estate Sales Contracts and Representation – Client Options
We have found that clients vary widely in what they want and expect from a lawyer in a real estate transaction. Some want a minimal review with comments. Others want both review and revision. Still others want comprehensive representation in the transaction from offer through closing. So we offer the following options:
1. Review/Comment on Sales (Earnest Money) Contracts. This is the minimum level of attorney involvement. It applies where the parties have already drafted a contract, whether signed or not (It is the only option available if the contract is already signed and binding). Comments and suggested changes are offered, as are answers to any questions concerning the legality or meaning of the contract. However, no drafting or redlining is included. We do not rewrite the contract. We simply point out specific weak points or areas that could be improved. The attorney´s responsibility ends at that point. The online fees are $150 for residential and $250 to $450 for commercial.
2. Review/Revision/Preparation of Sales Contracts. This is a second-tier level of legal representation. Preparation of the contract and/or revision of existing contract provisions (redlined changes) are included. However, negotiations and brokerage functions remain the responsibility of the client and the client´s broker, since this option does not include performing any of brokerage duties. Our "best case" objective is to provide a purchase-sale contract favorable to the client. The attorney´s responsibility ends at that point. It does not continue through closing and does not include review of closing documents. This option is not available if the contract has already been signed. If the transaction is residential, the fee is .001% of the sales price, subject to a $350 minimum (Example: $400,000 sales price, $400). If the transaction is commercial, then the fee is .0005% of the sales price subject to a $750 minimum.
3. Retainer to review all documents through closing. This is another limited form of representation in that it contemplates our "reviewing" documents (i.e., pointing out their weaknesses) but not drafting or re-writing them or engaging in negotiations. Online fees are $375 for residential transactions, $750 for commercial. If during the course of this representation we are nonetheless asked to draft or rewrite a document, our usual doc prep fee would apply as an additional charge.
4. Full representation through closing as "attorney/consulting broker." This percentage option applies if the client wishes to retain this office for comprehensive representation ranging from preparation of the contract through review and revision of closing documents – even if the client is already represented by a real estate broker. Our role overlaps with the broker´s – and since Mr. Willis is a licensed broker, we are retained as a consulting broker. Drafting, re-drafting, and negotiations relating to contract provisions are included as needed in support of the buyer´s main broker. Fees are a percentage:
(a) Residential Transactions. The fee is 1% of the sales price in residential transactions, with a floor of $450 paid in advance with the balance due at closing.
The client´s broker customarily reduces his commission to 2% in order to cover the 1% paid to us as consulting broker.
(b) Commercial Transactions. The fee is 1% of the sales price, payable as follows: $750 paid in advance with the balance due at closing.
5. Full representation through closing as both attorney and broker. This is the ideal option if the client has chosen a property on which he wants to make an offer, but is not represented by a real estate broker. Fees are:
(a) Residential Transactions. The fee is 2% of the sales price in residential transactions, with a floor of $450 paid in advance with the balance due at closing.
(b) Commercial Transactions. The fee is 2% of the sales price, payable as follows: $750 paid in advance with the balance due at closing.
If you are interested in this arrangement talk to us before you submit an offer or sign anything. Note: we will only represent buyers who make reasonable offers – no "lowballing" (defined as offers below 15% of the asking price). If you are pursuing a lowball strategy on multiple properties, we understand – but contact a full-service broker to assist you.
These options can get complicated, so we reserve the right to review circumstances case-by-case and modify fees accordingly. Note that fees for options (1) through (4) above do not include actual preparation of closing documents (deed, note, deed of trust, etc.), which is a separate function separately priced. The attorney is available for "conference call closings" but does not usually physically attend, since our closings take place from El Paso to Dallas to McAllen.
The costs of litigation have doubled in the last ten years – for everyone, including the attorneys involved. Because of this and for ethical reasons, only quality cases with legal merit are accepted. In other words, any case we accept must present both clear liability on the part of the defendant and real monetary damages in excess of $25,000. Our office has additional requirements:
1. We will never threaten a lawsuit in a demand letter unless the client has posted a substantial retainer in our trust account. This is our credibility policy.
2. This office will never file a frivolous suit
3. This office will never file a suit in furtherance of illegal or unjust ends.
4. It is our firm´s policy never to file suits among family members. Life is too short.
5. We will never file a lawsuit unless the client has proven to us in advance that he or she has the liquid financial resources to prosecute the suit at a sophisticated level through trial. A bank statement or other evidence of available funds is required.
For smaller cases, we may assist a client in preparing his or her own case to present pro se (without a lawyer) in Justice Court, where the jurisdictional limit is $10,000 and attorneys are not required.
As to hourly rates, we quote two rates – one for out-of-court time, the other for in-court time, although we may agree instead to a series of flat fee installments. Travel time is billed at half the out-of-court hourly rate. Contingency fee arrangements are not available. Retainers are as follows:
1. Initial retainer for filing suit. The initial non-refundable retainer for commencing litigation as a plaintiff in a non-TRO case is usually $5,500 (online) or $7,500 (in-office). Expect to pay additional retainer installments as the case progresses. A copy of a bank or brokerage statement showing at least $15,000 in liquid funds for future billings is required. If you do not have these resources, then the hard truth is that you cannot afford to litigate – not represented by this office or by any other quality firm.
2. Initial retainer for answering a suit. The initial non-refundable retainer for lawsuit defense is usually $5,500 in a non-TRO case (unless the client wishes to file a counterclaim, in which case the retainer is increased by $500) plus a stipulated $500 in costs for a total of $7,500. Expect to pay additional retainer installments as the case progresses. A copy of a bank or brokerage statement showing additional liquid financial resources for future billings is required.
Retainers are intended to be initial, lump sum payments and may not be paid in installments. Retainers are always non-refundable. In complex cases involving numerous parties, the initial retainer and cost deposit may be greater. Included in the non-refundable initial retainer are detailed preliminary pleadings, a first round of written discovery requests and/or responses, a half-day mediation if ordered by the court, and settlement negotiations and documents. No hourly accounting is made for these flat-fee items. Once completed, additional retainer installments will be required if legal representation is to continue. For more detail on the litigation process, read our article Litigation in Texas.
General Policies Applicable to All Clients
By engaging this office you unconditionally agree to all the following additional policies:
Clients agree to use email whenever possible to avoid phone tag. Good attorney-client communication is essential. Clients agree to check their email at least once daily while we are working together. This includes checking the spam folder, since mail sometimes winds up there. If our emails to a client persistently bounce back to us, then the client will be asked to supply a different email address.
Online fees. Unless otherwise noted, fees quoted on this site are for services provided online, supplemented by phone and fax. In-office services incur higher, market-rate fees.
Statements. When sent out as quotes, statements are good for 3 calendar days only.
Legal Articles. Clients must read web article(s) applicable to their case prior to engaging our firm. This ensures we have delivered maximum relevant information to the client. By hiring us, you certify the client certifies that he or she has first read this information.
Flat fees. Flat fees (as opposed to hourly fees) are an accommodation to the client and are quoted with the understanding that reasonable adjustment may be necessary if there is a substantial increase in legal work due to unforeseen circumstances. Example: the opposing party unexpectedly hires an attorney and the paperwork/negotiation burden on this office significantly increases. In other words, a "reasonableness" condition applies in all flat fee matters.
Flat fee accounting. No hourly accounting is ever made in flat-fee matters.
Hourly fees. When an hourly fee is appropriate, the rate is $250 per hour for out-of-court matters, $350 per hour in-court. Travel time is billed at $100 per hour plus costs. An advance retainer of $1,500 to $5,500 is customary in hourly matters with a three hour non-refundable minimum.
Costs. A quote for legal fees (even a flat fee) never includes costs and expenses. Clerks´ filing fees, court reporter fees, mediator fees, and the like are always extra in every law office. These fees are beyond our control and subject to change without notice.
Scope of fees. All our services are individually priced. Flat fees are strictly limited to the subject item plus reasonable follow-up in the immediate time frame. They do not include other legal services, supplemental doc prep, travel to rural counties, research in the courthouse, physically inspecting property, and the like unless express prior arrangements are made. And, or course, costs are not included in quoted fees.
Fees on weekends and holidays. An urgent matter may require you to request services on a weekend or during the holidays. We understand. However, fees increase by 20%.
Fees and retainers, once paid, are entirely non-refundable. Overpayments or credits to a client´s account must be used within 6 months or they expire. Clients have asked us to continue a consultation months or even years later – and that is not reasonable.
Payment of invoices. For billing of on-going or hourly matters, payment is late 10 days after date of invoice. If payment is not made when due or promised, this automatically terminates the attorney-client relationship and the attorney is automatically relieved of any obligation to continue delivering legal services (including appearing in court) without notice to the client.
NSF checks, payments declined for any reason, or chargebacks. This office has a zero tolerance policy regarding theft of legal services, which will result in immediate termination of representation without refund and possible civil and criminal prosecution. In such cases, this firm is entirely relieved of any obligation to maintain client confidentiality.
Chargeback fraud. We pursue our remedies for chargeback fraud to the maximum extent of the law including filing suit.
Payment failure – entity formation. If a client´s payment for LLC formation fails for any reason, then the client´s entitlement to the entity formed will be forfeited and this firm may, at its option, either (1) dissolve the new entity or (2) take possession, control, and ownership of the company by unilaterally amending its Certificate of Formation, all without notice to or consent by the client whose payment failed.
Client refunds or disbursements. In the event there is a refund or disbursement due a client or third party, this office shall have 30 days in which to make that payment. If the original payment was received by credit, debit, or wire, the refund or disbursement shall "net" after deduction of transaction charges.
Receipts. Receipt of payment may always take the form of an email acknowledgment that payment has been received. Occasionally a client requests a detailed statement in a form that satisfies that client’s own internal accounting requirements. It can be time-consuming to create these but we will do so for an extra $50 charge.
Document review/comment. We gladly review and comment on legal documents prepared by other professionals for the usual review fee. That includes documents prepared by lawyers and realtors (including TREC and TAR contracts). We are occasionally asked to review out-of-state forms or investment seminar forms for their validity in Texas. We are willing to do a legal validity review, but it is not part of our practice to then modify such forms to make them compliant with Texas law – so we respectfully decline to do this. The reason is that we have our own proven, court-tested, customizable formats for sophisticated Texas real estate and business documents that have evolved over the years. Finally, we do not attempt to comment on homegrown/do-it-yourself documents (they are just too far out of the box – we´ve even seen one scribbled on a napkin) and we never review internet forms (e.g., from investor "guru" sites or the likes of LegalZoom) – we consider these to be junk.
Inquiries on behalf of others. We occasionally receive inquiries from persons who are asking about the legal situation of another person. We prefer to deal directly with potential clients, so we may respectfully decline to respond to such an inquiry.
"Immediate time frame.". We include questions, follow up, and changes/corrections with a number of legal services within the immediate time frame, defined to be 7 calendar days. After that, a consultation and payment of the appropriate fee is required.
Pestering. We are proud to deliver draft documents within 24 to 48 business hours. As far as we know, no other law office is faster. So, recurrent calls or emails from the client asking "Is it done yet?" are not helpful. Please allow us adequate time to do our job. Persistent pestering may result in our stopping work and issuing a refund in an appropriate amount to the client.
Court dates. Court dates do not go onto the attorney´s calendar unless and until a retainer deposit is received and the attorney expressly confirms that he or an associate will be present.
“Meet and Greets.” We occasionally receive requests for an old-fashioned free "meet and greet" or "interview" – either at our office or by phone – in order for a prospective client to determine if this is the law office best suited to his or her needs. Regretfully, time limitations and the demands of our existing clients do not allow us to include such free discussions in our business model. We view them as paid consultations.
Associated attorneys. In the event of a scheduling conflict, a qualified associate attorney may appear in court, at a foreclosure, a mediation, or other similar matter in place of Mr. Willis without notice to the client or a reduction in fee.
Holding documents or company books for pick-up at indefinite later time. We regret that we are unable to act as a storage facility for your original items. It is our business to prepare documents and company books and then promptly email or ship them out. We must decline to accept the liability for storing any originals.
Real estate brokerage services. Before engaging this firm in a real estate brokerage capacity we ask that you first read "Information about Brokerage Services" which is available at the TREC website:
Registered agent services. "RA" services are limited in scope to (1) accepting service of process; and (2) forwarding official mail from the Secretary of State and Texas Comptroller as well as notice and demand letters from attorneys or claimants. Examples of items not forwarded are bank statements, personal correspondence, HOA correspondence, ad valorem tax statements, utility bills, magazines, and junk mail generally. We may open correspondence to determine its nature. Items will be forwarded by U.S. first class mail. Overnight delivery, UPS, Fed Ex, and overseas delivery incur additional cost. Services do not include interfacing with the IRS. The RA fee is not a retainer for legal services. The client must furnish up-to-date contact information. If mail to the client is returned "not deliverable as addressed" we will resign as RA. The attorney serves only so long as the annual $250 fee is paid. We will not assist in furtherance of any illegal, unethical, or wrongful activity, including non-payment of state or federal taxes. If such occurs, then we will immediately cease delivering services without refund and will, upon demand by authorities, disclose the identity and whereabouts of the represented entity and its members, said circumstances being an express exception to the usual attorney-client privilege and a pre-condition to the attorney serving as registered agent. Note that services as registered agent are Texas state-level only. They do not include interfacing with the IRS or any other federal agencies. Registered agent services do not include signing Assumed Name Certificates (state or county) for the client although this may be available for an extra fee.
No shows and last-minute cancellations of office appointments. These incur the full quoted fee and will be re-scheduled only at the attorney´s discretion and with advance payment.
Christmas holidays. This is a busy time for doc prep and entity formation since many clients want to complete their transactions or establish companies before the first of the year. The Secretary of State´s office (always understaffed) is backed up during the holidays. The printer who produces our company books is swamped. U.S. Mail is slow. This office works diligently during this period, but patience is required. All legal fees increase by 20% in the last 10 days of the calendar year because of the intense rush to complete transactions by Dec. 31st. No discounts or credits of any kind are available during this time.
Title insurance and title reports. This office is not affiliated with a title company and does not offer title insurance. A title search is easily obtained (and encouraged) but is not included in the fee for preparing a deed or closing a transaction. Such a fee is paid directly to the title company.
No responsibility for title company actions. Although regulated by the State Board of Insurance, title companies are independently owned and underwritten. They can be demanding, even whimsical, about what documents they require or approve. Our documents are always legally effective, but we make no guarantees concerning any particular title company´s preferences or underwriting approval. For creative transactions, it is occasionally necessary to "shop" title companies.
No tax advice. We cover some tax basics but are not tax advisors or tax return preparers. All clients are encouraged to have an experienced CPA who should be consulted every time there are potential state or federal tax consequences.
No insurance advice. As with taxes, we cover some of the basics but are not qualified insurance advisers. All clients are encouraged to have a good insurance agent who should be consulted every time there are potential insurance issues.
Outcome guarantees. We do not ever guarantee the outcome of legal disputes or litigation. The client´s obligation to pay fees is never contingent upon the outcome.
Do-it-yourselfers. We occasionally receive requests from persons who want assistance doing their own legal work, filling out "forms," or who want to buy a "template" or only a part of a package service so as to be able to do the rest themselves. We regret that we cannot include such services in our business model.
Client-provided summaries. To save time and ensure accuracy we may ask that the client summarize a list of items – for instance, a list of overdue note payments with due dates or a list of street addresses matched with lot and block descriptions. This is part of the client´s responsibility and is an expected level of professional cooperation.
Half-finished Cases. We occasionally receive requests from persons who want us to assume responsibility for a case that they have been working on themselves pro se (without a lawyer). Because of the number of lawsuits against attorneys, it is our policy not to assume personal and professional liability for what a client did or did not do while the client was attempting to handle a legal matter himself. This is particularly true in lawsuits, evictions, and foreclosures where the timing and content of notices and pleadings are critical. We respectfully decline such cases unless we are able to re-start the process from the beginning at the full fee stated on this website.
Attorney withdrawal. The attorney may immediately withdraw from a case if fees are not timely paid; if the attorney and client have a substantive disagreement concerning case strategy or methods; if the attorney determines that the client’s conduct or proposed conduct is unlawful; or if a client is rude, unprofessional, unreasonably demanding, or uncooperative. In the event of withdrawal, the attorney may determine the value of services rendered to date and, if appropriate, issue a partial refund to the client.
Exception to attorney-client confidentiality. This firm is under no obligation to maintain client confidentiality in the event a client commits an illegal, unethical, or wrongful act, whether against third parties or against this firm (example: writing us a bad check). This is an exception to our usual strict confidentiality policy.
Failure to pay taxes on companies formed by this office. If state and/or federal taxes are not timely paid on companies formed by this office, Mr. Willis will resign as registered agent (if he is serving as such) and the client expressly grants permission for us to disclose the client´s identity and address to the proper authorities. This is an exception to our usual strict confidentiality policy. We will not participate or assist in illegal conduct or incur potential liability for a client´s unlawful, unethical, or wrongful conduct. In particular, we will not tolerate collectors from the Texas Comptroller´s office appearing in our office and demanding that we pay a client´s taxes.
Client fraud, illegality, or tax evasion. This office advises clients on legitimate asset protection. If it is determined that a client is engaging in unlawful activities, representation will be immediately terminated without refund and this office will provide any information or documents that may be requested by the proper authorities. This is an express exception to our usual strict confidentiality policy. We will not participate or assist in illegal, unethical, or wrongful conduct by a client, nor will we subject ourselves to potential liability for a client´s illegal, unethical, or wrongful acts.
File Retention Policy. Clients receive copies of all documents and correspondence pertaining to their case as the case progresses. This is the client´s file. Keeping these copies and maintaining them in an orderly manner is the client´s responsibility. Our file remains the property of this office and may be disposed of at any time without consent of or notice to the client. Reproduction of this file, if we still have it, will incur a $150 fee. We never retain original documents. We disclaim any responsibility for keeping any files for any specific period. In accordance with the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, client files are shredded before disposal.
ALL FEES QUOTED ON THIS SITE ARE GENERAL GUIDELINES ONLY AND ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. THEY MAY ALSO VARY DUE TO UNUSUAL COMPLEXITIES OR RISKS INVOLVED IN PARTICULAR CASES. THIS OFFICE DOES NOT REPRESENT YOU UNLESS WE EXPRESSLY AGREE TO DO SO IN WRITING AND WE HAVE RECEIVED AND ACCEPTED PAYMENT. UNTIL THEN, WE WILL RESPECT YOUR CONFIDENTIALITY BUT NO FORMAL ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS CREATED AND WE HAVE NO OBLIGATIONS TO YOU OR YOUR CASE.