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Hiring an Attorney on a Limited Budget: What You Should Know

Most clients have a maximum amount of money they can spend on a case, but may not know what legal services they can afford with that amount. There are several factors that may influence how much your legal case will cost. These include:

These factors should be discussed with a lawyer before you decide to hire them. This is particularly important when you, as a client, are on a limited budget. The old adage “you get what you pay for” can certainly be true in law. However, it is equally important for clients to get good value for the money they spend. By understanding how legal billing works, you can get the legal representation that you need for a fair price.

The Written Arrangement Made with Your Attorney

It is important to understand what services an attorney will provide, when they will provide them, and how much the case will cost. When you decide to hire an attorney, you will make a written fee agreement that should cover these details. It is very important to ask questions at that time about what exactly the attorney is agreeing to do; this is known as the “scope of representation” and will be discussed further below. If you have budgetary limitations, it is important to let your attorney know what they are so that your case can be planned accordingly. There may be several ways to reduce your legal fees. When you have an ongoing case, what you initially negotiate and agree to pay is the chief factor in what your bill will be at the conclusion.

The Types of Client Fees That Your Attorney Can Charge

There are different fees that lawyers usually charge during a case. In some agreements, there may be more than one type of fee involved. If you have a limited budget, flat-rate or contingency fee lawyers may help you get good value for your money, and you may wish to avoid arrangements with extensive consultation fees or high hourly rates. Here are the most common types of client fees:

The Complexity and/or Uniqueness of a Case

Complex or unique cases present more challenges for attorneys. With complex cases, there can be a lot of time spent managing paperwork, investigating, and writing. With unique cases, attorneys may need to do quite a bit of research to come up with a brand new legal argument. Thus, an attorney is likely to charge more money for a more complex case.

The Skill/Experience Level of an Attorney or Firm

Lawyers who have many years of experience tend to charge more money for their services, as do older firms with a reputation for excellence. Law firms and attorneys that specialize in very technical or complicated areas of the law also typically charge more. Newer lawyers tend to charge less because they have less experience and are trying to build a client base and a reputation.

The Scope of Representation

Generally, the wider the scope of representation, the more expensive it will be. For example, an attorney who charges a flat rate to perform a very specific task will cost less than an attorney who agrees to handle any and all aspects of your legal case. During an initial meeting, it is important to discuss what the scope of representation will be, so that you know exactly what you are paying for.

The Going Rate in Your Geographic Location

One major factor in the wide range of hourly rates, flat fees, and other costs is geography. If you live in a major city such as New York or Chicago, you will typically have to pay more money for a lawyer. On the other hand, you may also have access to more attorneys or organizations that can provide sliding-scale or pro bono services. In some rural areas, legal services may be significantly less expensive, but you may also be faced with fewer options for legal representation.

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Last Modified: 12-02-2015 03:33 PM PST

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