Prior to starting on a job, I discuss fees with the client. Frequently, a maximum amount is set. I may well not bill that much, but I will not exceed the amount without consultation with the client.
My usual hourly rate for research and investigative services is $50 plus expenses.
Expenses can include mileage (40 cents a mile) and fees for pay services, such as databases I subscribe to, including Alabama's court system (AlaCourt) and the nationwide federal court system (PACER). I bill those pay services at cost.
Some background searches can be done in two hours or less.
I bill $50 an hour for service of process, but do not charge extra for mileage.
My rate for small-scale writing projects is also $50 an hour.
Pricing of larger writing projects, which may take weeks or months, can be negotiated, such as for a lower rate or a flat fee.
I do not require retainers when the client is an attorney. However, if the client is not an attorney, I may request a retainer.
In certain cases, I bill $60 an hour, but do not charge extra for expenses. These generally involve cases with large expenses and/or cases in which I know going in that the payment will be delayed.