What to expect when it comes to lawyers' fees

June 24, 2014

If ever you need to hire an attorney, there are several ways you could be billed for their services, and at various rates. So what could you expect when it comes to lawyers' fees? Here's an idea of what to anticipate.

What to expect when it comes to lawyers' fees

When deciding whether to proceed with legal action, it's a good idea to first weigh the potential lawyers' fees against the possible gains from winning your case – bearing in mind that nothing is guaranteed, not even the final verdict, until the end of your case. As such, here are some things to consider.

Hourly rates

Attorneys often charge per hour for their services. Billable services often start at upwards of $250 per hour and top attorneys sometimes charge more than $1,000 per hour.

  • These services may include research, drafting motions, depositions and court appearances.
  • Make sure you ask your attorney upfront what services they charge hourly for, how many hours these services generally end up taking, and how he or she keeps track of billable hours so that you can get an idea of how much you could likely end up paying.

Flat rates

Flat-rate services involve paying one rate for all services related to a case such as yours.

  • Some attorneys charge a flat rate of $2,500 or more for their services on particular cases.
  • Find out exactly what services are covered and clarify whether your attorney plans to charge by the hour for other services – in addition to charging the flat rate he or she quotes to you.

Retainer fees

Some attorneys charge a retainer fee, which is essentially an upfront payment for services to be rendered.

For example: an attorney may charge a retainer of $5,000 and use it to cover research, correspondence and trial preparation.

  • Ask what services the retainer covers and how the attorney charges for services that exceed the amount of the retainer.

Contingency fees

Contingency fees are common in civil lawsuits. That means instead of charging an hourly rate or flat fee prior to rendering service, some civil attorneys work on contingency.

  • As such, if you receive a settlement in a case the attorney will then takes a percentage of that settlement as his or her fee.
  • This arrangement means that if you lose the case, the attorney does not get paid – so he or she is motivated to get a settlement for you.
  • Ensure that you are not liable for hourly charges if you do not win the case before entering into a contingency agreement.

Undertaking legal action is no simple matter. It can be emotionally draining, which is why you want to ensure the process isn't going to deplete you financially, as well. That's why knowing what to expect regarding lawyers' fees before you embark is an important part of helping you through the many steps involved.

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