How Do FOIA Lawyers Charge Clients

I am Peter Sorensen. I’m with the Sorensen Law Office and all we do is Freedom of Information Act requests, administrative appeals, and judicial reviews of Freedom of Information Act matters. Today, I’m going to be talking about the two major methods that most FOIA lawyers and our law firm use to charge clients for the services that we provide. Now, these two methods involve a matrix called the Fitzpatrick Matrix. It’s a chart that is put out annually by the United State Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia. This chart lists the hourly rates for all the different types of people that might be working on your case. For example, we might have paralegals, might have law clerks, might have second year associate attorneys, and we might have attorneys like me that have multiple decades of experience. So the starting point for the two methods that clients pay attorney fees would be the Fitzpatrick matrix.
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Hourly Pay

Now, in the one case, it’s an hourly fee that the client pays. As the case goes along. We typically charge one third of the Fitzpatrick matrix so that people have a better idea of what it might cost to do their case. We do those in cases where the likelihood of gaining attorney fees by the government having to pay is low. That’s how we charge for that type of case.


Now, the other method is where the client puts up the cost, the out-of-pocket costs, the filing fee, which is $402, the service fee, which is about $7 per per party, comes out to about $21-$22, depending on the weight of the complaint. The actual fees that the law firm receives is based upon an award that the court makes the government pay. That’s called a fee shift case. Again, we use the Fitzpatrick matrix to inform the court about the value of the services that have been provided by the various people at their various levels that they’re to be paid. So those are the two methods we use.