***Please leave your comments below. I would love to hear from you regarding your experiences with attorney’s fees.
FEE: the mention of the word tends to make people uneasy; add it to “Attorney Fee’s” and some of us may just run and hide. However, if we understand how and why your Attorney decides how he/she comes up with their fees, it is really not so scary or hard to understand.
As we all know, everything has a price. As Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” Essentially, what laywers sell is very different from other professions. Primarily, lawyers are forbidden by the ethical rules from making guarantees or assurances regarding the outcome of your case. Lawyers expect to be paid for their time, knowledge and legal counseling. Most attorneys determine their fee based upon their knowledge or experience in a particular area of law. The more experience an attorney has in one area, the more you can expect to pay.
There are also many outside variables which greatly affect the costs of litigation. Civil litigation attorneys must spend time in research and trial preparation. Overall, attorney’s fees are driven by the time necessary to research the facts and case law, the difficulty of the case and the reaction and strategy of the opposing party. Be prepared and have a set amount decided upon that you can afford to invest into resolving your situation. Talk to your attorney early on about the potential costs involved. Also ask about outside costs, other than attorney’s fees, for which you may be ultimately responsible.
There are three main types of fees which lawyers typically contract for with clients: Hourly, Flat Fee and Contingency.
Hourly rates are typically a set rate multiplied by the hours worked by the attorney and paralegals. The agreement you sign with your lawyer should carefully define how much each firm employee bills per hour. With hourly rates you will likely be billed for travel, phone calls, email, court costs, etc. Be sure that you understand your fee agreement and attorney billing structure. One way to keep your costs lower is to save all of your questions for one specific email or phone call. Clients can unwittingly drive up high fees by constantly contacting their attorney. Under the hourly rate structure, attorneys typically ask for money up front. How much money the attorney requires largely depends on the case and the firm’s policies. Personally, I ask my clients for an amount which must be renewed monthly. The deposit is kept in a client trust account and the attorney is only paid as work is performed. Hourly rates which will vary from attorney to attorney.
Flat Fees are a set fee for clearly defined services that are less difficult in nature. Quite frankly, I am reticent to quote flat fees in many civil litigation matters. It is just too difficult to determine with pinpoint accuracy how much work will be necessary in your case. Flat fees are more appropriate for specific tasks, such as reviewing a document or drafting a will.
Contingency fees may be structured two ways; either the attorney can take a percentage of your winnings or he can demand payment for the hours worked at the close of the case. As an attorney, I will only take contingency cases if I feel 100% confident that I understand all the facts of the case and I know for certain that the defendant is capable of paying. After all, if the defendant has no money, it may not be worth your time to sue. Like all of you, I want to know I will get paid if I do a great amount of work on a matter.
If you have any questions about the fees described above or my services, please do not hesitate to contact me. Also, please feel free to leave your comments or questions below.