Understanding the attorney fees would help you control your finances a whole lot better and help you make better financial decisions when working with your lawyer. The attorney fees could get substantial, and if you don’t fully understand them your bank account would very soon. Before you enter into a legal agreement with your chosen attorney, it would be in your best interest to have an understanding of the attorney fees so you can build a strong client-attorney working relationship with your lawyer without any financial disputes, which on the other hand would help your lawyer fully focus on your case. Provided here are overviews of attorney fees that you may expect when hiring a lawyer. But this is just to inform you. Always clearly communicate with your attorney the legal fees that apply to your case and don’t stop asking your attorney until you gain a full understanding of the legal costs that you will be responsible for.
Some attorneys who enjoy higher reputation may charge more than the ones who don’t. But, those well-reputed lawyers may get the work done faster. The keyword here is “may.” That’s because lawyers consider several factors when setting their fees. It depends on how complicated your case is and the amount of time it will take to resolve the matter. Even though the trial itself may not take that long, researching the law, gathering the facts, interviewing witnesses, preparing all the needed documentation and arguments for the trial may take days, weeks and even months. In some cases unexpected developments may take place that will complicate your situation even further, which would result in higher fees.
You need to feel comfortable when discussing fees with your lawyer. Actually, you and your lawyer can negotiate almost any type of fee agreement. Besides the fee that you may pay for your first meeting, your lawyer could offer you a fixed, hourly, retainer, contingency, or a statutory fee. In addition to that, the same lawyer might charge more for the time spent in the courtroom than for hours spent in the office or library. But, you can agree to any one or a combination of these fees. The most common billing method is to charge a set amount for each hour of time the lawyer works on your case. What will work for you is what you need to discuss with your attorney and find a medium that will work for both of you. Don’t forget that your main goal is winning your case. The fees need not to spin you out of focus that may result in losing your case. On the other hand, if one attorney is not willing to meet you half way in regards to your ability in making the payment, consider talking to another attorney.
You need to get your fee agreement in writing. By law, contingency fees and non-contingency fees anticipated to be $1,000 or more must be in writing. But, it’s best to get any fee arrangement in writing no matter the amount because it provides a written record. This way, both you and your lawyer will know what to expect from each other as you work together on your case. Also, it steers clear from any confusion and misunderstanding that may affect your outcome. Try to avoid making oral agreements. But if you do make one with your lawyer, make a written note of it.
Your fee agreement needs to include what services are and aren’t covered under that agreement as well as the type and amount of fees you will be expected to pay. Also, the agreement might spell out your obligations as a client, as well as how the court fees and miscellaneous expenses will be handled. It could explain the attorney’s billing practices and state whether the lawyer is going to add interest or other charges to unpaid amounts. The lawyer may have a pre-printed fee agreement for you to sign. However, nothing is set in stone. You can always ask the lawyer to change parts of the agreement or make up a new one especially for your situation. If you’re not sure what to ask your lawyer regarding your fee agreement, feel free to bring some one with you at your initial meeting to help you out.
Do not sign the agreement if you don’t fully understand it. Also, do not sign it if something you have requested is not included or vice versa. You need to read it and fully understand it. Once you sign it, you fully agree to it. That’s important because if you have agreed to (signed) something that you “didn’t really agree” (as a result of not reading the agreement), or didn’t want, or didn’t fully understand, legal fees can add up very fast and cost you an arm and a leg. When you get your bill, it’s too late. Every story that you can read about people complaining against their attorneys regarding fees, it’s because the client signed up to something that they didn’t fully understand. Or, they’ve made oral agreements with no record.
Fee Arrangements – covered in Part 2 of this article.
Disclaimer: The author and publisher of this article have done their best to give you useful, informative and accurate information. This article does not represent nor replace the legal advice you need to get from a lawyer, or other professional if the content of the article involves an issue you are facing. Laws vary from state-to-state and change from time-to-time. Always consult with a qualified professional before making any decisions about the issues described in this article. Thank you.
This is Part 1 of this 4-part article. Please refer to the other 3 parts to read this article in full.