Attorney fees don’t have to be daunting. In fact, depending on your situation, you might not have to pay anything unless your case is successful. Here are a few things to know about the different types of attorney fees.
- A contingency fee is only paid if you win. A contingency fee is contingent on winning, or settling, your case. If you win, then your attorney takes a portion as his or her fee. This type of fee is common injury cases, including accidents, workers’ compensation and medical malpractice. If you are suing or attempting to collect damages (money), then you typically will pay a contingency fee. There shouldn’t be any up-front cost, which allows you to take legal action without significant risk. If you lose, there is no fee.
- A retainer is a lump sum paid up front. Retainers are common in hourly fee cases, as opposed to the contingency cases described above. The way it works is that you pay your attorney a couple thousand dollars, for example, and they take their hourly fee from that retainer as they earn it. You might be required to refill the retainer.
- Flat rates are more and more common. A flat rate is just that. You pay a set amount for legal work. Some types of cases are impossible to predict; a seemingly simple case can suddenly get complicated and require many hours of work. It wouldn’t be smart for an attorney to charge a flat rate in an area of law that tends to be unpredictable. So for that reason, you’re likely to find flat rates on things that are more definitive, such as drafting a single document, filing for a simplified divorce, etc.
- You should always ask an attorney about his or her fees. It’s not rude to talk about fees right off the bat – it’s realistic. Your attorney, or potential attorney, might need to gather more information about your case first, but they should be prepared to talk to you about their fees early on. In fact, don’t agree to hire them until you have this conversation.
- Sign a fee agreement. Follow #4 above, and then get it in writing. This benefits both sides, so it shouldn’t be a problem to get a signed fee agreement. It should include the hourly rate or flat fee, as well as the retainer requirements if applicable. If you have questions about anything, now is the time to ask.
All of your fee-related questions can be answered at an initial consultation, which is often free of charge. If you need help finding a particular type of attorney, just let us know.