4/30/2014 11:48:00 AM Law Day: How Might You Expect To Be Billed
SPRINGFIELD — Most attorneys will provide an initial consultation at little or no charge. This is the time when a potential client explains the services he or she is in need of and asks the attorney about the fees and charges for services rendered. Once an agreement is reached, the attorney will probably enter into a written agreement that spells out the terms of the working arrangement.
Generally, there are four basic ways that attorneys charge for legal services:
1. Hourly charge: Some attorneys establish a fixed hourly rate for their services. Their fee is then computed by multiplying the fixed hourly charge by the number of hours the attorney works on the case. The attorney then adds direct out-of-pocket expenses such as court filing costs, long distance telephone charges, transportation costs, photocopy charges and the like. When retaining an attorney on this basis, you may wish to ask for an estimate of the charge for the requested service and to have explained what complications might arise and what effect the complications would have on your fee. Hourly rates of attorneys will vary depending upon an attorney's experience and the demand for the particular service.
2. Fixed or flat lawyer fees: For frequently performed services such as drafting a relatively uncomplicated will or real estate transaction, some attorneys charge a fixed or flat rate.
3. Contingent lawyer fees: In certain types of cases, such as those involving personal injury, collections and workers' compensation, the attorney typically accepts a part of the financial "recovery" as the fee. This is called a contingent fee arrangement. The fee is fixed at a percentage of the recovery, but many attorneys charge an additional percentage if the matter is re-tried or appealed to a higher court. Typically, the attorney does not receive payment when a contingent fee action is unsuccessful, but the client is expected to reimburse the attorney for out-of-pocket expenses such as court filing costs, transportation costs, investigation costs, and fees paid to witnesses. If the client wins the lawsuit, the same expenses are deducted from the client's share of the recovery.
4. Lawyer fees set by a judge: In some cases, the attorney's fee is set by the court. Certain types of cases allow an attorney to request a judge to order an opposing party to pay for legal fees.