When a person is seeking legal representation, he or she should keep in mind that the amount of a lawyer’s fee can be based on many factors, such as ability, credentials, and experience. Attorney fees, while they vary, tend to fall into a few distinct categories. These are: fixed or flat fees, hourly fees, and contingency fees. For a potential client, it is also necessary to recognize that many types of attorney fees are negotiable.
Fixed attorney fees will most commonly apply in situations such as the drafting of a will, or reviewing the title to a parcel of real estate. Since these are things that attorneys routinely do, and since they are relatively uncomplicated, many attorneys will readily quote the fees they charge for these services. The services for which a fixed fee is charged would not include complex criminal matters or other lengthy legal proceedings.
Another common type of attorney fee is the hourly fee. An hourly fee is just what it sounds like. In other words, the attorney keeps track of the time spent on a particular person’s case, and multiplies that by his stated hourly rate. If it is agreed that an attorney will charge an hourly rate, it is common for the attorney to request a fee called a “retainer” up front. A retainer serves as a sort of deposit, or a partial payment to have claim on the lawyer’s time.
In cases where hourly attorney fees are charged, it is wise for the client to periodically request a statement from the attorney, detailing the time spent and the money owed up to that point. It is also important to keep in mind that the final fee will likely include additional costs. These will be things such as photocopies, long distance telephone calls, travel expenses, and other costs incurred by the attorney on the client’s behalf.
The final type of attorney fees are called contingency fees. A contingency fee is different from fixed fees or hourly rates because it is based on a percentage of an amount of money recovered, such as in a personal injury case. That percentage is typically about one-third, though it can be as high as 40%. Contingency fee arrangements are only entered into when there is a reasonable expectation that there will be some financial award given, whether by settlement or judgment by a judge or jury.
Contingency fee agreements involve written contracts that are signed by both the attorney and the client. This is because if the case is lost, then the lawyer is paid nothing for his time. Additionally, the client may be responsible for other court-related fees even if the case is lost. In light of these risks, a lawyer must carefully assess the chance of success before representing a client in this way.