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Contingency Fees and Legal Expenses

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A contingency fee is an agreement where a lawyer will only collect a fee if you win your case.  The lawyer then takes a percentage of the award.  However, many people are not aware until after the case is over that many contingency fee agreements also leave them responsible for the expenses incurred by the lawyer during your case.

There are many expenses that may come up during the course of a trial.  These expenses include depositions, witness fees, court filing fees, and transcript costs.  These expenses may be passed on to the client regardless of the outcome of the case.

If you lose your case, the fact that you may be responsible for these expenses can come as an unpleasant surprise.  Contingency fees are usually presented as a safe option, since you only pay the fees to your lawyer if you win.  However, you may be responsible for the expenses even if you lose the case, and many people are not prepared for that result.

It is important to determine what the nature of your responsibility for the legal fees even in the event you win your case.  In some cases, the lawyer simply pays for the expenses out of the percentage collected from the award.  In other agreements, though, the lawyer will deduct the expenses from your total award before taking the agreed percentage.  This can have a significant effect on the amount of the award that you eventually receive.

It might be possible to negotiate fees with your lawyer.  That is why it is always important to discuss fee arrangements in your first meeting with your lawyer.  Always make sure that you fully understand the fees before hiring an attorney.

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 01-14-2014 03:47 PM PST

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