Understanding the framework for lawyer fees is an important part of preparing for legal representation. Learn how many lawyers charge for their services, and what to expect in terms of total out-of-pocket costs.There are several different areas of law, both on state and federal levels. Accordingly, there are several different types of legal counselors who specialize in a particular type of practice. For instance, there are personal injury lawyers, divorce lawyers, criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, bankruptcy lawyers, immigration lawyers, and much more. Depending on the industry and the private preferences of the law firm, the type of fee arrangement they offer clients will vary.
Continue reading to learn some of the most common fee arrangements for lawyers, and how much your case will likely cost you.
Contingency Fees. This is a common fee arrangement used among personal injury law firms. Under a contingency-fee basis, a client does not pay anything upfront in terms of lawyers’ fees. They may, however, have to pay for court and lawsuit related fees, such as court costs, witness testimonies, expert panelists, filing fees, and more. As for paying the lawyers, clients only have to pay if a settlement is recovered for them. If a settlement is recovered, the personal injury lawyers will collect a set percentage (usually 1/3 of total amount) that was previously agreed upon in the contract signed by the client. The larger the settlement, the more money the law firm makes.
Hourly Fees. This is the most common fee arrangement used among lawyers in most other fields of law. Under an hourly fee arrangement, clients agree upon an hourly rate presented by the lawyer at their initial consultation. From there, any time and work that the lawyer puts into the case is billed to the client. This can include phone calls, emails, document filing, and more. This is a very expensive fee arrangement, with common rates ranging between $200 and $300 per hour.
Flat Fees. Flat rate fees are generally used by law firms that deal with simple and direct cases. This may include divorce lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers, and lawyers who deal in wills, notaries, and similar legal services. In addition to the flat fee charged by the lawyer, clients may also be responsible for paying filing fees, court costs, and any other related fees surrounding their claim.
Retainers. Retainers are not necessarily a fee arrangement, but more so an additional fee responsibility to a fee arrangement. Many lawyers who charge hourly or flat rate fees may ask clients to pay a retainer as well. This is an upfront payment made to the lawyer as a sign of good faith that the clients are capable and willing to pay. They are also used to help jump start the financing of the case, including witnesses, investigations, and more. Lawyers often put retainers in a special trust account, and deduct their costs from them as they work on the case. Retainers are nonrefundable unless a court finds a retainer “unreasonable.”
Free Legal Representation
If a person is charged with a misdemeanor crime punishable by jail time, or a felony offense, the 6th Amendment in the United States Constitution guarantees the right to legal assistance. So if a defendant cannot afford to hire a lawyer, a court will provide one for them, free of charge. These lawyers are licensed and certified counselors referred to as public defenders. The state pays for the public defense, but defendants will still be responsible for paying additional court costs and legal fees, especially of they are convicted.