If it becomes necessary to get legal assistance from an Attorney (i.e. you are being sued or your rights are being threatened etc.), how much should it cost?  Unless you qualify for free assistance through a public Attorney (Legal Aid etc.), you will have to pay an Attorney for assistance.   How much are these services worth and how much should you have to pay?

Paid Advertising  If you found an attorney through a paid ad or sponsored listing in a web search, some of the "legal" fees you will pay are paying for that marketing instead of the services you need.  Your independent research including referrals and seeing education and community service involvement should help you find the right attorney.

Weigh the value of your goal.  The value of legal assistance can be determined against the value of the rights you are seeking to protect.  For example, how much is it worth to be protected from being forced out of your home?  How much is it worth to get those needed repairs?  How much is it worth to fight a claim that you owe the landlord money you are sure you do not owe?  Obviously, you will not spend $900.00 in fees to sue for $300.00.  However, spending $900.00 to fight an eviction that could cost thousands in moving costs and result in severe credit damage would be a bargain even if there is no rent in dispute. 

Office visit charges   Sometimes it is very important to take legal action before you are involved in any lawsuit.  You may want the return of your deposit, protection against unfair treatment or to take action to prevent an eviction.  In these cases, a simple office visit may handle the matter with a nominal fee.  Ask for the fee up front for this visit including any fee for any letters.  Also, Sometimes, just knowing where you stand in a situation has significant legal value and gives peace of mind.

Get up front quotes on estimated fees before you retain the Attorney.  Open ended retainers with only hourly chares to be billed are very risky.  The Attorney should have enough experience in your matter to be able to predict the general cost of the intended service.  A flat fee without regard to hours, at least for a portion of the case, is the best.  At least you will know what it will cost for a predicted level of  service. 

"Free consultation" offers.  While these are common for personal injury and some other contingency cases, they do not apply very well to Landlord-Tenant matters.  The Attorney's office that will not quote fees for routine services over the phone should be looked at with caution.  The "Free consultation" may merely be a device to take advantage of a tenant who is in a crisis.  Further, tenants may feel so pressured by the situation that they will not be able to make an intelligent decision regarding hiring this Attorney.  Many times they just say O.K. to most any fee, even very excessive ones.  That "Free consultation" may become very expensive. 

What is the experience level of the Attorney?   Is this a newly licensed Attorney?  Is this an Attorney who claims to handle many types of cases which include tenants rights?  Without the experience in assisting tenants, just advertising for Landlord Tenant cases does not mean that the Attorney is qualified to assist Tenants. Are they practicing alone in a small office without a support staff?  That attorney may not be there in the future if you need to revisit your case for any reason.  A "general practitioner" may be an excellent attorney but cannot be an expert in all fields. Landlord Tenant matters are best served by an expert uniquely experienced in tenant representation.  It is easy for an Attorney try and attract new clients by paid advertising or sponsored ads on web search results, but it takes years of hard work to become specialized in any area of the law, especially Tenant's or Occupants' Rights.

At THE TENANTS LEGAL CENTER of San Diego (TLC), we don't use marketing tactics including the free consultation sales pitch or paid advertising.  We stand on our record of successfully helping thousands of tenants and occupants as well as providing education and community assistance since 1993.  Many of our services have flat fees and can be quoted before any service is rendered

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California law for San Diego is applied in these pages.  Such laws may or may not be applicable in other jurisdictions.  The information provided herein is of a general nature and is not intended to be taken as specific legal advice.  For legal advice in a particular situation, promptly consult with an appropriate attorney.