Lawyer's $2,500 Minimum Fee Earns Him 30-Day Suspension

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 12, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Attorney William Vilmont has gumption. Either that, or he simply doesn't know when to cut his losses and repent.

The Iowa attorney has earned himself a 30-day suspension and all because he decided to charge his client a $2,500 minimum fee. For your average criminal representation, this wouldn't be an outlandish amount. However, Vilmont only spent 3.7 hours on the case -- one hour of which was used to provide an accounting.

Still, he adamantly maintained that he did not charge an unreasonable fee.

Except that he did. With the accounting, his fee averaged out to approximately $675 an hour. Without the accounting, about $926. The Iowa Supreme Court believes his overall services were only worth about $600.

This is because he only represented the client for two weeks. He agreed to represent the man in a state criminal proceeding, explains the Iowa Supreme Court. Per their agreement, he would receive $225 an hour and a minimum fee of $2,500. The client also agreed to pay William Vilmont a $2,500 retainer.

Two weeks after the pair entered into this agreement, the state dropped the charges, effectively ending the representation. Instead of reassessing the fee agreement, Vilmont withdrew the $2,500 from his client trust account and paid himself the minimum fee.

He then refused to provide the client with an accounting until the disciplinary board got involved.

Anyone who has been to law school should know that $2,500 for 3.7 hours of work is an unreasonable fee. Not William Vilmont. But what really sealed his fate was his subsequent behavior. He was "uncooperative and unapologetic" according to the court, and he "[a]lmost defiantly, but without support, he maintained the fee he charged was not unreasonable."

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