Attorney’s Fees – How to Avoid Large Legal Bills

Most attorneys make a good living and they do so by charging attorney’s fees. This begs the question, what exactly are attorney’s fees and what should I know about attorney’s fees before I hire a lawyer? This article describes the different types of attorney’s fees and provides a number of tips for determining which type of attorney fee is best for you.

  • A Few Minutes at a Time: The Hourly Attorneys Fee
  • Most attorneys charge hourly rates. Hourly rates are usually calculated by tracking hours in one, six, or ten minute increments. Some attorneys may even use hour increments. The rate attorneys charge per hour varies greatly based on the location of the attorney, the type of work to be performed, and the time required. It is not uncommon for specialized attorneys to charge in excess of $600 per hour. Most attorneys charge an hourly rate closer to $300 per hour. While hiring an attorney who charges higher hourly rates may sound ludicrous, clients should understand that a specialist may be able to perform work much faster than a non-specialist. This is especially true if the non-specialist will have to bill a significant amount of hours to get up to speed on a legal matter.

  • One Successful Legal Issue at a Time: The Contingent Attorneys Fee
  • Contingent attorney’s fees are also common. These fees are based on the success of the attorney in the legal matter. They are usually calculated using a set percentage. For example, a personal injury attorney may charge a contingency fee equal to 40 percent of any lawsuit recovery. These fees can routinely range from 30 to 60 percent. Contingency fees may encourage the attorney to use his best efforts to resolve the matter. If they extend to settlements reached before the lawsuit ends, contingency fees may also encourage the attorney to settle the matter for any amount in the beginning of the case. In this case the attorney will have performed little work and in exchange for earning a fee – albeit a smaller fee that he may have earned for putting in more effort.

  • One Legal Issue Regardless of Outcome: The Flat Attorneys Fee

Flat fees are less common for attorneys. These fees consist of specified payment or payments denominated in a dollar amount. These fees can vary significantly, but they should relate to the attorney’s estimation of how much time the case will take plus a profit component. Thus, a matter that will probably take ten hours for an attorney whose hourly rate is $300 per hour, might be offered by the attorney at $3,500.

Flat fees can help clients budget for legal costs, but they do have some drawbacks. Because they are not tied to the outcome of the case, the attorney may end up working faster and not smarter. Also, the attorney may be tempted to compartmentalize the job and charge a separate flat fee for each component. This can end up costing the client more than the contingent or hourly attorney fees they would have otherwise paid.

Conclusion

Clients should consider these options in deciding which attorney to hire. Ultimately, it is up to the client to negotiate an attorney fee payment arrangement that they are comfortable with. Most attorneys will be receptive to this type of negotiation.