Skip to main content

The Costs and Fees Associated with Hiring an Attorney

How much, and what does that mean?

One of the main concerns people have when they’re looking to hire a lawyer for the first time is: “How much do they cost?” While exceptions always exist, the following is a general overview of the most common ways attorneys charge for legal services.

Flat Fee or Fixed Fee

A single, lump-sum payment is common in areas of law where the legal work is often straightforward and unlikely to run into complications—wills, estate planning, patents or trademarks, and certain tax filings. If your needs are more complex, an attorney may suggest an hourly structure.

Hourly Rate

Paying by the hour is common in civil cases where no party is physically injured—such as family law and real estate. Many attorneys on an hourly fee model require an initial payment to secure their services. This is referred to as a retainer. It is worth asking an hourly attorney about their minimum billing segment, so you can know if something like a five-minute call would cost you a full hour.

Contingency

Many injury-based areas of law, such as personal injury, medical malpractice, insurance, and workers’ compensation, operate on contingency. In this arrangement, the attorney is not paid unless they win (or settle) your case. They would then take a percentage of your award or settlement. What that ratio is should be covered early on, but it’s often about one-third. Sometimes contingency fees operate on a scale, in which they take a lower percentage for a low award.

Additional Costs

These refer to expenses related to a case, such as filing fees, travel and mileage, expert witnesses, investigators, consultants, depositions, and photocopying. You should ask your attorney what additional costs may be incurred. Extra fees don’t usually apply to contingency cases.

Questions

When you first meet with an attorney, they may ask you to sign paperwork related to a fee arrangement. You should read it carefully and ask any questions that arise. 

  • When and how often do I pay?
  • What about additonal costs?
  • Does this meeting cost anything?

For more information on this area of law, see our general litigation overview.

Other Featured Articles

General Litigation IconGeneral Litigation

Can You Record Someone Without Permission in Texas?

Dissecting the state’s one-party consent rule as it relates to privacy

General Litigation IconGeneral Litigation

When and Why Attorneys Take Cases Pro Bono in Georgia

And other frequently asked questions about discount legal representation

General Litigation IconGeneral Litigation

How To Find a General Civil Litigation Attorney

Finding competent advocacy is daunting but necessary

View More General Litigation Articles »

Page Generated: 0.12157201766968 sec