I am currently discussing to purchase a lot at Prince George's County, MD. The original deed refers to a right-of-way deed with the state of Maryland for a small piece of that lot. I have a copy of the right-of-way deed. I am trying to retain a right-of-way lawyer who will go through the deed and explain my limit on that part of the property along with its implication for the rest of the property.

I talked to a very established law firm. They are asking for a $1500 up-front payment that will be credited to the bill charged at an hourly rate of $400/hr.

Is that reasonable?

  • 1
    Why do you need to use "a very established law firm"?
    – RonJohn
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 15:21
  • 1
    There are two issues: is $400/hr reasonable, and do you expect the explanation to take nearly 4 hours? If the answer to the second question is no, then $400/hr would need to be far below what another lawyer could provide, because you'll be paying for time you didn't use.
    – chepner
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 15:25
  • I don't understand the close votes -- this fits exactly in the scope of: Spending Wisely The financial aspects of home buying Consumer issues or consumer protections
    – user662852
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 16:17
  • @ChrisW.Rea I understand the desire to not advertise service providers or shopping recommendations, which is the spirit I take away from the single given Shopping example "where can I buy the cheapest X?". I see there's a grey area but my read of this question is for price discovery, not a service recommendation, of a not-common specialist task within house buying. "The financial aspects of home buying" is explicitly stated on the same on topic page as in scope. There exist questions about reducing real estate agent commission paid that are not close-voted.
    – user662852
    Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 17:08
  • @user662852 Fair counterpoints. Retracted my close vote. Commented Feb 5, 2021 at 19:35

3 Answers 3


According to this website, a reasonable hourly rate for attorneys in the United States is between $100 and $300. So $1500 just to explain a legal document to you is a really hefty price.

The reason they charge you such a high price is because top law firms want to deal with top clients who come to them with very complicated legal issues (like companies). Private middle-class clients aren't their target demographic.

But your legal issue doesn't seem that complicated. All you need is someone to explain a standard legal document to you. You don't need a Harvey Specter, you need a Jimmy McGill. So you might want to look for a smaller law firm or self-employed lawyer. You might want to narrow your search to those who specialize in real estate. Those have likely seen such right-of-way deeds before and are used to dealing with laypeople like you. So they will be able to explain the legal ramification of such a document in a language you can understand and for a price you can afford.


If you have an real estate agent, ask them for a reference. They or their firm should have an idea of a local expert. Reviewing the plat is a normal part of the purchase process. It probably doesn't take a lawyer.

My experience is that should not take very long to explain. They can tell you what you can or can't do near that part of your property. They can tell you the other party can do with that piece of property. If you have specific questions they should be able to handle them.


Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and I don't claim to have extensive experience with lawyers. But based on my personal experience and some logic ...

I don't know what typical fees are for a lawyer in Maryland. May well be higher than here in Michigan. But I see @phillip found a source that says typical lawyer fees are $100 to $300 per hour, which sounds plausible to me. I hired a lawyer last year who charged me $150 an hour, which I think was on the low end but not like a leap up and cheer bargain.

Last time I hired a lawyer before that was to get a new will written. A pretty straightforward will. She charged me a flat $200 and I'd guess did maybe 2 hours work.

Before that I consulted a lawyer about a minor child custody issue. The gist of it was that he explained the law to me and discussed my options. He spent about half an hour and charged me $50.

Next question is how many hours you expect the lawyer to spend on this. As you describe it, you want a lawyer to review the document and explain it to you in layman's terms. You're not asking the lawyer to draft any new documents, or to represent you in court. You just want him to read some papers and explain it to you. How long should that take? An hour or two? If you hire a lawyer who is experienced in real estate law, he should be familiar with these sort of clauses and would not need to study it carefully and do extensive research. He should be able to just read it over and say, yup, I've seen these before, here's what in means.

If I was hiring a lawyer for that here, I'd expect to spend -- just guessing here, but I'd think the ballpark would be $300 to $500. In Maryland it's probably more because that's a higher cost of living state. But $1500 for an initial retainer and add to that seems pretty high.

As I say, if someone else has specific experience with law firms in Maryland and this particular kind of case, please chime in.

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