Frequently Asked Question

Gougis Law

Choosing an attorney is a very personal decision. There are many factors that should be considered, including that attorney’s expertise in a particular field, fee amounts/hourly rates, the attorney’s proven track record, and the attorney’s communication style.

To read more on other factors that should be considered when choosing and attorney and questions you should ask, read “How Do I Know if a Lawyer is Right for Me?”, an article published by the American Bar Association, located here: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/public-information/how-do-i-know-if-a-lawyer-is-right-for-me-/

There are some matters, like most bankruptcies, for which a flat fee is charged. This fee may vary, depending on the complexity of your case. The amount of the flat fee typically will be provided during your consultation. 

For certain civil rights and employment matters, the work will be billed on a mixed fee/contingency fee basis. That means you will be charged a fraction of the attorney’s and legal assistant’s/paralegal’s rates. In addition, the attorney will receive a percentage of any proceeds collected through litigation, settlement or otherwise. 

Most work is charged on an hourly basis. During the consultation/case evaluation, we will provide an estimate of the total time necessary on your case – please note, however, that these are just estimates. The time spent on your case may vary, depending on a wide variety of factors, so it is impossible to predict the total legal costs with absolute certainty. 

For work billed on an hourly, or mixed hourly fee/contingency basis, we will provide the retainer that will need to be paid before legal services can begin. A retainer is a down-payment made for legal services. Typically, the retainer is held “in trust”. The attorney withdraws his/her hourly rate as he/she works on the case

Attorneys charge an hourly rate for most legal work, which is billed in six-minute increments. At Gougis Law, we strive to make the most of time spent in order to achieve the best outcome for you in the most cost-efficient way possible. 

There are many ways in which you can work with your attorney to make the most use of the legal time spent on your matter, including the following: 

  1. Respond to Your Attorney Promptly. Responding promptly to requests for information and documents requested from your attorney, or for approval of documents. This allows your attorney to work more efficiently and without the need to spend time requesting extensions.
  2. Keep Your Attorney Updated. This allows the attorney to prepare necessary documents/pleadings and prepare for hearings with the most up-to-date information, rather than having to prepare a second (or third time) with information the attorney becomes aware of after the fact.
  3. Opt for Email Communication for Simple Questions and Comments. When it comes to simple questions, it typically takes an attorney less time to respond to email than by phone (or by letter). That being said, there are times when phone calls are best, especially when discussing a complex issue or when you anticipate that you may have several questions or multiple follow up questions.
  4. Communicate with Staff Whenever Possible. If you need to contact the firm for a non-legal matter –g., to request a copy of a legal document or to schedule or reschedule a meeting – contact the firm’s legal assistant or paralegal rather than the attorney. Typically, the paralegal/legal assistant hourly rate is much lower. 
  5. Deliver Documents Promptly and in an Organized Matter. Deliver all relevant documents to your attorney as soon as possible after signing your legal fee agreement. Make sure documents are organized. Organizing documents beforehand helps ensure less attorney/legal assistant/paralegal time is spent organizing the documents, which results in less cost to you. Typically, delivering documents via electronic mail (in a PDF format) or facsimile is best. That way, less time is spent scanning and saving the documents. Whenever possible, refrain from sending “screenshots” of documents, especially screenshots of documents with multiple pages. Screenshots are often illegible and take an inordinate amount of time to convert to a format we can use. 
  6. Understand Your Attorney’s Billable Hours. Understanding how your attorney bills can help you plan your communications and actions. Most attorneys bill in six-minute increments, or one-tenth of an hour (0.1 hours). Many firms charge a minimum of 0.3 hours for any task, including each phone call or email. For example, a five-minute phone call may nevertheless be billed at 0.3 hours. Some firms also “double charge” for interoffice conferences – e.g., charging for the attorney time and paralegal/legal assistant time for inter-office conversations about your case. We at Gougis Law do not believe in these excessive billing practices. You will be charges accurately for the time spent on your case, so your five-minute phone call will only be billed for 0.1 hours. Also, we do not “double charge” for interoffice conferences. 
  7. Do Some of the Work Yourself. Whenever possible, we will recommend work that can be done by you in order to keep your costs down. This may include preparing responses to discovery (e., answering written questions and gathering requesting documents in lawsuits) and contacting third parties. It is important to be thorough in your work; for example, you should write detailed, complete responses to discovery questions/interrogatories. This will minimize the need for follow up questions, which results in more attorney time spent on your case.
  8. Avoid Venting to Your Attorney. We understand that going through a legal issue can be incredibly stressful and that venting is sometimes inevitable. Even if your attorney sympathizes with you, he or she only has so many hours in the day and must bill for the time spent, even if that time is not doing much to benefit your legal case. Additionally, an attorney is not a mental health professional and, therefore, may be less equipped to discuss the emotional aspects of your case – it would be better to have those discussions with a good friend, pastor, spiritual advisor, or therapist.


After providing your email, you will receive an invitation to join our client portal. The client portal will allow you to check billing and tasks performed on your case, obtain information on remaining tasks and important dates and events, send/receive secure messages, and review and pay invoices.

Initial consultations for bankruptcy and family law (including divorce, legal separation, child custody, and child support) are provided free of charge. These consultations typically last 15 minutes. During the consultation, we will have an opportunity to discuss your situation, after which we will propose the terms of representation.

There are areas of law that require more in-depth initial case evaluations, including employment law, education/school law, and civil rights cases. These case evaluations typically take one hour and cost $250. The case evaluation fee may be paid by personal check, cashier’s check, money order, cash, and credit card. We accept Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.

During the case evaluation, we will go discuss your situation. You are also encouraged to bring a copy of all relevant documents with you, which we will review during the meeting. We will then provide the potential courses of action (including whether it would be best to file a lawsuit in state and/or federal court, file a charge with an administrative agency like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Illinois Department of Human Rights, or U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights).  We will then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Where appropriate, we will provide recommendations on how to gather and preserve evidence for your case. Finally, toward the end of the case evaluation, we will propose the terms of representation.

Consultations through video conference (via Zoom video conferencing) are available upon request. At this time, consultations are not provided via telephone.

Please note that certain areas of law require in-depth case evaluations, as opposed to consultations; these include employment, education/school, and civil rights law. A $250 deposit will be required when booking a case evaluation via Zoom video conference.

Consultations are available on select Saturdays. If you are interested in scheduling a Saturday consultation, please call our office at (309) 282-6325. Please note that a $250 deposit will be required when booking a case evaluation on a Saturday.

If you cannot make your appointment, please contact our office at (309) 282-6325 to reschedule. Please provide as much advance notice as possible.

For scheduled case evaluations scheduled on Saturdays or via Zoom video conferencing, a full refund of the $250 case evaluation fee will be provided as long as the cancellation occurs at least 24 hours in advance. For cancellations with less than 24 hours’ advance notice, the $250 case evaluation fee is non-refundable – however, the case evaluation may be rescheduled at no additional charge, at our discretion, in limited circumstances (i.e., for emergency situations outside of the prospective client’s control).

You can get started by filling out and submitting the information form on our website. You also may call our office at (309) 282-6325 to schedule a consultation or case evaluation.

When booking your Zoom video consultation/case evaluation, we will gather your relevant contact information, including your email address. We will then email the link, meeting ID, and meeting password. 

Prior to the consultation, you will need to download Zoom on your computer or phone. You may download Zoom at https://zoom.us/download.

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