I have a personal injury case that was just settled. I agreed to pay a contingent fee and the lawyer’s out of pocket expenses. One of the expenses is a first class airline ticket from Nashville to Atlanta for a deposition – at the cost of $1500! Can the lawyer charge me for that expense?
You should contest the charge, but at the end of the day what will happen will depend on the exact language of the contract, your persistence, and the lawyer’s conscious.
There is nothing legally wrong with the contract providing that the lawyer gets to fly first class at your expense. If that is what you agreed to do then you are legally on the hook.
If the contract is silent on whether the lawyer gets to fly first class, then you are responsible only for "reasonable" charges, and absent some special disability for the lawyer I think most people would agree that paying $1500 to fly first class for a 35 minute flight is not reasonable. Hopefully the lawyer will agree and simply charge the coach rate and pay for the balance out of his or her pocket.
If you cannot reach an agreement, insist that the lawyer hold the entire amount in his or her trust account while you pursue whatever form of dispute resolution your contract provides. The Nashville Bar Association has a Fee Dispute Committee that will help you resolve this matter at little or no charge.