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 What Are the Different Types of Legal Fees?

Legal fees are fees that attorneys or law firms charge for their services. This may include charges for:

  • Consultations;
  • Document preparation;
  • Court appearances; and
  • Other legal services that are provided.

Legal fees may be charged:

An hourly fee is where the attorney charges a specific amount of money for each hour or part of an hour that they work on a case. The fee amount is typically based on the attorney’s experience and expertise.

Typically, an attorney charges a flat fee, or set amount, for a specific service, regardless of how much time it takes to complete it. This is common for services including basic legal advice or document preparation.

With a retainer fee, the attorney charges a set amount of money up front, which is typically a deposit, and then bills the client for services rendered based on an hourly fee. Typically, once the retainer is used, an hourly rate will apply.

If an attorney charges a contingency fee, it means they do not get paid unless they win the case. This is common in personal injury cases as well as other types of cases where a client may not have the money to pay the attorney’s fees.
It is important to be aware that legal fees may vary depending on many factors, including:

  • The type of case;
  • The attorney’s experience and expertise; and
  • The jurisdiction.

In addition, some attorneys may offer free initial consultations. Other attorneys may charge a fee for these meetings.
It is important to ask an attorney about their fees before hiring them and to understand the terms of payment.

What Is a Flat Fee?

Typically, a flat fee means that the attorney charges a fixed, total fee. Flat fee legal services are generally offered if the case is relatively routine or simple.

In certain cases, an attorney may charge a flat fee to defend an individual in a simple case such as a bankruptcy or traffic infraction. A flat fee real estate attorney may charge a fixed rate to search property titles.

Examples of simple types of cases may also include:

  • Writing a will;
  • Overseeing a real estate closing;
  • Drafting contracts;
  • An uncontested divorce; or
  • Power of attorney.

It is important that a client asks exactly what services and expenses are covered by the flat fee and what is not. It is also important to keep in mind that the flat fee may only cover certain things and the client may be required to pay more for additional services.

This may include costs for administrative work such as copying and typing. Laws governing lawyer fees, including flat fee laws require that attorneys charge a reasonable amount for their services based on their experience and location.

Recognize the Source of Any Legal Expenses

When an individual is negotiating prices with an attorney, they should feel at ease. LegalMatch requires that attorneys disclose their costs up front.

However, an individual may wish to dig deeper into the subject. Discussing fees is an excellent approach to assessing an attorney’s client-service skills.

As noted above, there are different types of fees a lawyer may charge. Although it may seem smart to go with the cheaper rate, in certain cases, the pricer, more experienced attorney can actually handle the issue quicker.

It is important to clarify which type of fee schedule is used and what exactly is covered by the payments. LegalMatch requires lawyers who offer a flat rate to detail these costs in their responses.

Set Reasonable Expectations for Payments

An individual may be required to pay certain fees in addition to the attorney’s costs. Prior to choosing an attorney, flat fee legal options should be discussed and the attorney should be prepared to explain these fees with each monthly payment.

In order to determine what costs are part of an individual’s legal fee and what costs are not included, it is important to carefully review the response. A client will typically cover the following costs:

  • Cost of photocopies;
  • Long-distance phone bills;
  • Fees for overnight delivery, postage, and courier services;
  • Filing costs;
  • Charges for the expert witness and court reporter; and
  • Reasonable fees for travel and transportation.

The following costs are typically not covered by clients unless there are exceptional circumstances:

  • Regular secretarial and administrative support services;
  • Conventional office supplies;
  • Fees for local phone calls;
  • Local meals; and
  • Without limitations, first-class travel expenses and meals away from the city.

It is important for a client to discuss these issues before hiring an attorney so the expenses do not catch them off guard.

Check Your Monthly Bill

It takes time for an individual to review their attorney’s monthly bill. It is in their best interests to take the time to fully comprehend the bill, especially from the attorney’s perspective.

An individual may request additional information if anything on their itemized bill seems ambiguous. The bill should include the attorney’s expenses and fees.

The bill should specify what was researched in detail if they were charged for five hours of research time. If it does not, the client should ask about the charge.

It is important to keep track of the hours as tasks an individual is billed for each month. This way, an individual may catch time that may have been repeated on another bill.

It is important not to accuse the attorney if something looks out of the ordinary. The client should simply ask a few questions regarding the charge.

Even if a cost is reasonable, when the client asks about it, it shows the attorney they are paying attention, which is both legal and smart.

When Are Flat Fees Generally Not Offered?

In general, flat fees will not be offered for court or trial cases or personal injury cases. Court cases contain too many variables to charge an accurate flat fee.

Contingency fees are typically used in personal injury cases.

Should I Compare Flat Fees?

Yes, it may be helpful to compare flat rate lawyers. It is important to remember, however, that in addition to fitting an individual’s budget, it is important to ensure the lawyer meets the needs of their case.

Always Give Your Lawyer a Review

Once a case is finished, LegalMatch gives clients the opportunity to review their lawyer’s performance online. Most importantly, a competent attorney is a professional.

When an individual is assessing their attorney, they should look at their capacity to:

  • Regularly provide case updates;
  • Return phone calls;
  • Respect timelines while allowing for acceptable flexibility;
  • Keep being honest and loyal but also respectful of their client’s wishes;
  • Observe confidences;
  • Honor the original service agreement while participating in open discussions about any billing issue;
  • Direct a client to speak with someone else when specialized knowledge is required; and
  • Attend meetings or court appearances prepared.

Should the Fee Agreement Be in Writing?

Yes, it is always best to get a fee arrangement in writing. If an individual feels that their attorney has breached their fee agreement, they may be able to sue them for attorney malpractice.

Should I Contact a Lawyer?

Yes, it is important to consult with a lawyer for any legal issue, question, or concern you may have. A lawyer is best trained and equipped to provide advice and help you with any issue you may have.


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