Attorney Fees: Know what you’re going to pay

Most people know that attorneys can be expensive. The work that they do is diligent and their fees are based on several factors. These factors can include: the attorneys experience, the time spent on your case, their ability and reputation, the degree of difficulty for the case, the results of the case, and other costs involved. Some additional factors include the attorney’s overhead expenses such as rent, utilities, and office equipment. All of these factors may influence how much you’ll pay and listed below are some of the more common fee agreements for attorneys.

The first fee agreement is the ‘Contingency Fee’. This is a common fee agreement where the fee is based on a percentage of the amount awarded in the case. This type of fee can be charged in personal injury cases, property damage cases, or other cases where large amounts of money are involved. The percentages can vary from attorney to attorney and are often in the range of 30%-40%. Some attorneys offer a sliding scale based on how much the case has progressed before being settled. If the case is lost, the attorney does not get a fee but you still may have to pay expenses. Contingency fee agreements allow injured persons who would not otherwise be able to afford an attorney, hire an attorney and get access to the judicial system.

Another common fee agreement is a ‘Consultation fee’. An attorney may charge a fixed or hourly amount for your first meeting, where you both meet to discuss and determine if the attorney can help you. Make sure you are aware of whether or not you will be billed for this initial meeting.

Some attorneys charge a ‘Flat fee’ when working on certain cases. In this instance, the attorney will charge a specific, total fee for working on an entire case. This agreement is common with straightforward cases such as a will or uncontested divorce. In other instances, attorneys will charge you an ‘hourly rate’. A fee will be charged for each hour, or portion of an hour, the attorney works on your case. An hourly rate is the most typical fee agreement. Some attorneys charge different fees for different types of work, as well as a more experienced attorney may charge more than a junior attorney.

In some cases, a ‘retainer fee’ is requested up front as a “down payment” of sorts and future costs are billed against that amount. This amount is usually based on the attorney’s hourly rate. The retainer is typically placed in a special account and costs are deducted over the length of your case. Many retainer fees are non-refundable unless deemed unreasonable by a court. Another way to think of a retainer fee is that your attorney is essentially “on-call” to handle your legal problems for a certain period of time. Usually, a retainer fee can have different meanings from one firm to the next, so remember to have your attorney explain the retainer fee agreement in detail.

An attorney can help you out of a legal jam but always remember that you will have to pay for their services. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, call the offices of Franklin D. Azar & Associates for a free consultation.