How to Hire an Attorney for IDFPR Issues: What to Ask (and What to Avoid)

options when hiring an idfpr lawyer

options when hiring an idfpr lawyer

For many professionals licensed by IDFPR, contact with our law office is the first time they have needed to work with an attorney. It can be a daunting process to navigate through an IDFPR matter, but a good Illinois attorney can make the process easier. 

Here are some common questions that come up while seeking representation.

Should I Hire an Attorney Because of an IDFPR Investigation or Complaint?

When in doubt, hire an attorney before talking to IDFPR.

Licensees have spent tens of thousands of dollars and years of schooling to obtain their license. Regardless of whether an IDFPR investigation is frivolous or substantive, you should spend the money to hire an attorney to represent you and protect your professional license and your livelihood.

Many clients will try and start the process on their own. Sometimes this works. However, many times it causes additional problems due to oversharing of information or speaking too casually with IDFPR. Do not hesitate to seek out an attorney if you run into an IDFPR issue.

Are Flat-fee Engagements a Good Idea for IDFPR Cases?

Flat-fee agreements can work well for both parties if done properly. 

One danger is that not all attorneys honor the written agreement and if the case becomes too complicated or takes up too much time, they will demand additional funds. Most flat fees provide a fixed amount due for a project, so that the client is not concerned about your attorney spending too much time on your case. The agreement should be in writing and clearly spell out the details because the “devil is in the details” as is usual for written agreements. 

For attorneys, flat fees can work well if the project is clear from the outset, which is rare.

There are some drawbacks or things to watch out for with flat-fee projects:

  1. Up-front payment. Generally, law firms will require all or most of the flat fee be paid before any work is done.
  2. Big promises. If an attorney is promising you the world for a low flat fee, be cautious. An attorney can only do the work for a flat fee if the work is clearly defined. IDFPR representation usually falls into two categories. The first is reviewing the matter, corresponding with, and meeting with IDFPR investigators, and attempting to have the case dismissed or reach a settlement. If a settlement cannot be agreed upon, then IDFPR will schedule a hearing. No attorney can estimate how long preparation for a hearing and the hearing itself will take at the time they accept the case.  If a fee arrangement sounds too good to be true, it is.  
  3. Additional fees. If something happens which causes your case to take longer than planned, the law firm may demand you pay more money because of additional work.  This may very well happen if you work on a flat fee basis with an attorney who has carefully defined the scope of the representation upfront in favor of the attorney.

What to look for in a flat-fee proposal:

  1. Specificity of Services. Agreements should be very specific about the work to be performed and the timeframe.
  2. You get what you pay for. An attorney that has never practiced at IDFPR may only charge $2,000, while an experienced IDFPR attorney may charge triple that. You invested a lot of time to become licensed in your profession. You’ll want to find an attorney who is highly qualified in this area. Just like in other aspects of professional life, the cheapest is not always the best.

How Do Retainer and Hourly Fee Agreements Work?

Retainer Agreement

A retainer is a sum of money that an attorney will hold until they have earned that money.  The money is not an advanced payment; the attorney holds the money in trust until it is earned.  

A client should receive a monthly invoice showing the hours worked and a description of the work. 

Hourly Agreement

Hourly rates can seem excessive, while some attorneys may charge double what others do, remember that experience will limit the amount of time spent on a matter. An attorney who is not familiar with IDFPR or administrative law will almost certainly spend more time on the case learning about the process and the many applicable rules than an attorney well-versed in the processes. 

Questions to Ask an Attorney You are Considering Hiring:

  1. What experience do they have with professional license defense in your specific field or with the issues in your case?
  2. How will they bill: flat fee, hourly or a mix, including the exact scope of services covered by a flat fee arrangement?
  3. Who will work on the case? Is it the partner or will you be working with multiple associates in their office? Associates and law clerks can be a great way to minimize costs, but you need to know who is on your team and who at the end of the day is responsible for your case.
  4. How often will the attorney be in contact with you?
  5. What is the chance that I receive a favorable outcome? See if the attorney believes you have a case, and one that is also winnable. You don’t want pie-in-the-sky guarantees; you want pragmatism. 
  6. How long will your matter take? You should have a general timeframe to know when your case can be completed? A realistic idea about the time the case will take helps in managing your expectations.
  7. How many hours do they anticipate spending on this matter? No attorney will be able to give you a precise answer, as IDFPR’s attorneys will also dictate the amount of work and time required, but an experienced attorney will be able to give you a close estimate.
  8. Does the attorney have legal malpractice insurance?
  9. How many times has a client fired the attorney while an IDFPR case was ongoing.

After meeting with an attorney or two, look at the notes you have taken

  1. Did the attorney listen to your concerns and address them?
  2. Was the billing process clearly explained? Does it sound reasonable compared to other attorneys?
  3. Did they make any promises or guarantees? If so, be careful.
  4. Ask for a written engagement agreement and take the time to read it. If there are parts you don’t understand or do not like, ask for an explanation. 

An attorney can be an advocate, a problem solver, and a trusted advisor. Take the time to find someone you want to build a relationship with—especially when your license is on the line.

If IDFPR is investigating your license or if a complaint has been filed against you, 1818 can help protect your license. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.

Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.