How Much Will a Lawyer Cost?
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What Determines How Much a Lawyer Costs?
While the services of a lawyer are usually not free, there is a common misconception that they are nonetheless unaffordable for most people. The reality is, legal professionals bill not only based on the value of their services, but by what their client’s needs are, and a myriad of other factors.
Areas of Law
Lawyer fees differ depending upon the area of law. For example, fees may be different for the following types of lawyers:
- Bankruptcy Lawyer Fees
- Business Lawyer Fees
- Child Custody Lawyer Fees
- Criminal Defense Lawyer Fees
- Divorce Lawyer Fees
- DUI Lawyer Fees
- Personal Injury Lawyer Fees
- Estate Lawyer Fees
- Immigration Lawyer Fees
What Causes the Costs of Legal Representation to Vary?
One should expect to pay more for a veteran lawyer in a big city than a newly minted attorney in a rural area. In addition to the location and expertise of an attorney, there are a handful of other factors that cause costs to vary, such as:
- Type of Representation – Put simply, the more complex the matter, the more likely it is to cost more for services. This is also true for otherwise routine, simple matters that have been made complicated by aggravating factors or circumstances.
- Services Performed – If an attorney is performing multiple services, the overall cost of representation will also likely rise. However, a lawyer may offer to bundle such services at a fixed cost, keeping the overall expense of representation comparatively low.
- Fee Arrangement – Whether a lawyer is billing on a contingency fee plus an hourly basis, requires a flat fee, is retained and advises on a need by need basis, or has been hired as in-house counsel will ultimately make a huge in the overall cost of representation.
What Goes into Determining a Lawyer's Fees?
With most lawyers, their cost will be largely determined by their experience. As mentioned above, another big consideration in the overall cost of the lawyer is how they bill. Below is a break down in the more common types of fee arrangements.
- Flat Fee: If a lawyer charges a flat fee, it is likely the lawyer will only be offering to handle a straightforward matter, such as defending against a simple DUI or for basic intellectual property protection. For a flat fee, expect to pay anywhere between $800-$4,500, depending on the complexity of the service. For example, a criminal defense lawyer may offer a flat fee of $25,000 to perform a murder trial.
- Hourly Fee: These types of fees are more common where the case is complicated or has a myriad of unknown factors. Thus, the lawyer, in good conscious, could not a charge a flat fee without running the risk of drastically overcharging or undercharging the client. With an hourly fee, it is not uncommon for legal bills to quickly get into the $10,000-$15,000 range. However, all things considered, for the amount work done it may also ultimately wind up being less pricey than a flat fee arrangement.
- Contingency Fee: This type of fee arrangement basically means the lawyer will not collect a fee unless your case prevails. Thus, their fee is “contingent” upon the success of your case. Traditionally, personal injury lawyers and worker’s compensation lawyers operate on contingency fees. There are certain types of cases where a contingency fee is against public policy, such as criminal defense and divorces. Under a contingency fee, most lawyers will recover 1/3 of the award. This 1/3 does not cover costs or any other expenses, such as medical bills. However, it is not uncommon for a lawyer to employ a tiered contingency fee.
Which Fee Structure Is Best?
Ultimately, the best billing structure is the one that works for the client, and lawyers understand this. It is becoming more common for lawyers to adjust their fee structure to help meet your needs.
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Last Modified: 08-13-2014 11:05 AM PDT
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