It’s ok to be upfront about your expectations for compensation when interviewing potential attorneys. Legal services can be expensive, but they should be accessible to everyone. A lawyer’s willingness to discuss fees and payment is a good way to gauge character and the level of customer service you can expect from him or her.
Lawyers typically bill their time in four ways:
- Contingent fee: This means your lawyer’s payment is contingent upon the outcome of your case. In this arrangement, your lawyer will not charge you for services upfront. Instead, they’ll be paid once the case concludes. Contingent fee arrangements are most common for personal injury cases, such as automobile accident cases or medical malpractice suits. The attorney’s standard percentage is 1/3 to 1/2 of the money awarded. This does not include expenses and the costs of litigation. Contingency fees can vary and are negotiable, so it's important to review your contingency agreement thoroughly.
- Hourly: This is the most common convention for payment. Your attorney will work a certain number of hours to resolve your issue or close your case, and will charge an agreed-upon fee per hour. Consider experience when weighing hourly fees. A more experienced lawyer may charge more, but will likely be able to give you a more exact estimate for how many hours your case will require and will resolve your issue faster than an attorney with less experience.
- Flat fee: Typically assigned to simple legal matters, the flat fee is usually charged one time for general services such as wills, trademarks and finance situations. When discussing a flat fee, make sure you are aware of what the fee does and does not cover. It may not include extraneous expenses such as filing fees or court expenses.
- Retainer: Depending on the conditions of your case, your attorney may require a retainer, which is usually an advance payment on the hourly rate. Once the advance is received, the costs of preparing your case are deducted throughout the duration of your case until the account is exhausted, at which time you will discuss further. Normally, retainers are non-refundable unless special circumstances apply.
When discussing fees and billing, it’s important to ask detailed questions and to discuss details such as anticipated miscellaneous costs such as court costs, filing fees, secretarial time and delivery charges. Also be sure to get your fee agreement in writing and request itemized billing. You may want to discuss your limit on fees and request that any attorney get your approval before exceeding estimated costs.
Most cases handled by Greene & Associates are handled on a contingency basis. When you meet with Angela L. Greene, or any of our attorneys, she will give you a Contingency Fee Agreement to take home with you to read and review before signing. She will never ask you to sign a fee agrement at your first meeting. Learn more about Contingency Fees.