|I charge $200 per hour for attorney time.|
The cost for attorney time for an appellant can range from $8,000 to $30,000.
The cost of attorney time for a respondent can range from $10,000 to $20,000.
I will work on either an hourly basis or for a flat fee. Most clients prefer a flat fee. To quote a flat fee, I need to know the size and complexity of the record.
I jokingly tell clients that I charge by the pound. This is sort of true. An example of a low-end fee scale is if the the litigant lost the case when the trial court sustained her opponent's demurrer without leave to amend. There will be a small record -- maybe a few hundred pages or less.
An example of the high-end of the fee scale for an appellant is a lengthy trial where there is a 12 volume Reporter's Transcript. As appellate counsel, I need to know the record inside out, backwards, and forwards. When that record consists of thousands upon thousands of pages, it is a daunting, time-consuming oddessy to get to the point of completing and filing the Appellant's Opening Brief. Sometime the Court of Appeal requests Letter Briefs in addition to Opening Brief, Respondent's Brief and Reply Brief. When this happens and I have agreed to work for a flat fee, I charge no additional attorney fees for writing the Letter Brief.
The appellant frames the issues on appeal. When I represent a respondent, I respond only to whatever issues the appellant has raised. While I need to know the record when representing the respondent, the job of writing and filing the Respondent's Brief is not as time-consuming as the job of representing an appellant. This is why the cost for attorney time to represent a respondent on appeal is much less than the cost for attorney time to represent an appellant.
Aside from the cost of attorney time, there are other costs involved in bringing an appeal or responding to an appeal.
The appellant must pay the filing fee, which is currently $775, to The Court of Appeal -- plus a $100.00 fee to The Superior Court - a total of $875 for filing fees. The Respondent must also pay a filing fee, which is $390.
The appellant must pay the cost of a Reporter's Transcript, and must also pay for a Clerk's Transcript.
There are incidental costs such as Attorney Service costs or Federal Express. There will sometimes also be secretarial costs for fine tuning and proofing briefs prior to taking them to the printer.
There is also the cost of printing briefs. Both appellants and respondents must pay the costs of printing briefs. I prepare the briefs and have them printed at Fed Ex Office. Doing this is much less expensive than printing briefs at a printer that specializes in printing legal documents. Ultimately, the outcome of your appeal will not hinge upon how much money you spent to have your briefs printed. (The Third District now requires that all documents be filed electronically. This new rule will present additional problems and costs.)
There could be travel expenses.I live in the Los Angeles area. I could be required to travel to do oral argument.
Oral argument can be waived. If the other side is willing to waive oral argument, and if cost is an issue, it is best to waive oral argument.
The Court of Appeal is influenced by oral argument only in the rarest of circumstances. If the Court has any doubts, the justices will request oral argument. In the Federal system, oral argument is "by invitation only." In the California Court of Appeal the Court has written the opinion prior to oral argument. After, hearing oral argument the opinion's author may tweak the opinion, but will rarely make any substantive change.
I believe that I charge less than most appellate counsel. Nevertheless, pursuing an appeal is an expensive proposition. Any would-be appellant needs to weigh the decision very seriously.
The losing side on appeal will be required to pay the winning side's costs. "Costs" do not include attorney fees.
There are circumstances where the losing appellant (or losing respondent) will be liable for his opponent's attorney fees on appeal. If the appeal involves a contract dispute where the contract contains a prevailing party attorney fee provision, then you are seriously rolling the dice on appeal. If you lose, your opponent will seek prevailing party appellate attorney fees. My fees may be modest. Your opponent's fees will not be equally modest. Trial courts award the prevailing party "reasonable attorney fees." I guarantee that what a trial court determines is a "reasonable fee," and what a losing party believes is a "reasonable fee" will differ dramatically.