What Are the Different Types of Legal Fees?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Legal fees comprise a large part of the cost of doing many things. Whether for an individual or a business, legal fees apply to anything that requires legal action. While many people assume that fees apply to hiring an attorney for representation in some matter, they can also apply to legal matters that do not require an attorney. For instance, a legal name change, selling a house or a car, and getting married are all events that will entail legal fees even though an attorney is typically not needed. Conversely, attorney fees are just one of many types of fees.

Attorney fees are typically arranged in one of three ways and depend largely on the case itself. Most attorneys will charge one of the following: a flat fee, an hourly rate, or a percentage of settlement moneys from a case. Some attorneys may charge a retainer fee, which is typical for businesses and certain types of cases. In addition to the attorney’s fees, other fees may apply separately. Examples of other types of fees include filing fees, criminal fines, court costs, and so forth.

Filing fees are fees charged for the filing of a legal document or court record, court costs are fees charged for appearing before a judge or magistrate, and criminal fines are a type of punishment in the form of money owed for violating the law.


Surprisingly, many people forget there are fees associated with out-of-court actions as well. For example, if you’ve ever been given a citation for speeding or other moving violation, but were not required to appear in court, you were likely required to pay a ticket fine. This is also an example of legal fees. You pay the fine and no further legal action is taken. However, if you elected not to pay the fine, your potential fees would increase exponentially if a warrant were issued for your arrest and you were made to appear in court.

Legal fees in general, whether imposed by an attorney or the court itself, will vary greatly depending on the legal matter being handled. Other factors, such as the desired outcome, the length of the process, and the difficulty of the matter, will also affect the amount of legal fees involved. Many fees are straight fees imposed by the court, such as filing fees, and are available on county and municipal websites. Other fees may be negotiable. People who require legal representation but can not afford to pay for it have the right to use the services of a court-appointed attorney.


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