When someone has a legal problem, an attorney can be the first person they look to for answers, help, and representation. However, before the average client gets in touch with an attorney they likely have questions about how much an attorney's services might cost, how payments are structured, and whether they even need a lawyer in the first place. In FindLaw's Attorneys and Fees section, you can find information on what a lawyer can bring to the table as far as services go, the types of fees and costs that typically exist in a case, and other articles related to this topic.
Factors that Affect Attorney Fees
Most states simply require that attorneys charge a "reasonable" rate for their services, which leaves attorneys generally free to choose how much to charge their clients. There is no way to know how much an attorney is going to cost, but there are certain factors that will affect the cost of a particular attorney. Some factors that will affect an attorney's rates are the complexity of a particular case, the area of law, the lawyer's experience, and the hours and staff that will be necessary to competently handle the case.
An attorney's rates could be negotiable depending on the case. There are also ways for a client to help reduce legal costs. Being prepared for your meetings and phone calls with your attorney by organizing all of the information and documents pertinent to your case. In addition, be sure to be efficient in all communications with the attorney since attorneys often charge by the hour. Finally, be sure to examine your bills to make sure you're being charged for the work and rate you previously agreed upon.
Pretty much all lawyers will have a client sign a fee agreement at the start of the attorney-client relationship. Such an agreement allows the attorney to lay out how the attorney's fees will be calculated and how the attorney expects the client to pay the fees. Generally, there are three types of attorney fee arrangements: hourly, contingency, or fixed fee. The area of law and the task that the attorney has been hired to perform will usually determine which type of fee agreement the attorney will offer.
An hourly fee is just as it sounds – the attorney charges the client for each hour of work he or she performs on the client's case. In an hourly fee agreement, sometimes the hourly fee will vary depending on the task performed and if support staff performs the work, the fee will be lower.
A contingency fee is one that based on the results of the case – if the client wins the case, the attorney gets a previously agreed upon percentage of the monetary award. Contingency fees are common in personal injury cases. Most states prohibit contingency fee agreements for criminal cases or divorces for public policy reasons.
A lawyer can also have a fixed fee agreement in which he or she charges a set amount for the legal work the attorney is performing for the client. This type of agreement keeps the costs low, as it doesn't take into account the actual time the attorney spends on the task. Attorneys usually have fixed fee agreements for simple and standard legal issues, such as drafting a will or trust.
Hiring an Attorney
If you're interested in filing a lawsuit or are being sued yourself, or have other legal questions, you may want to consult with a local litigation attorney to find out your options and whether or not your situation may require an attorney.