Understand the Cost of a Lawyer: About Legal Fees
Legal Tips — 16 through 20
- Understand where all the lawyer fees are generated
- Have realistic payment expectations
- Always look at your monthly bill
- Always evaluate your lawyer
- If you are happy or unhappy, do something
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16. Understand where all the fees are generated.
You should feel comfortable when discussing fees with a lawyer. LegalMatch requires lawyers to explain their fees up front, but you may want to question the matter in further depth. Talking money with your lawyer is an excellent way to judge how he or she treats clients. The types of fees a lawyer can charge are discussed below.
Hourly rates are the most common type of fee. Depending on a lawyer's experience and location, an hourly rate can vary quite a bit. Cheaper might be better, but a more expensive and experienced lawyer could very well handle your case faster and better. At the consultation, remember to ask for an estimate of how many hours you can expect to pay for.
Flat fees are usually charged when the services being provided are more predictable. It is important to ask the lawyer exactly what services and expenses are and are not covered in a flat fee. LegalMatch requires lawyers to explain these expenses when responding with a flat fee.
A contingent fee means the lawyer charges no fee but instead earns a percentage of the settlement or judgment, if any is awarded. Contingent fees — typically one-third of the settlement or judgment — can be negotiated. In some cases, contingent fees are prohibited.
Retainer fees are advanced payment based on an hourly rate. Clients put money into a special account, and the lawyer deducts fees as services are completed. The client is responsible for reviewing the account periodically. The client should be aware that the retainer fee is generally refundable if not used by the lawyer.
A statutory fee is a fee set by law. Some legal work requires the court to set or approve the fee.
No matter which type of fee agreed upon between you and your lawyer, always obtain proof of the agreement in writing.
17. Have realistic payment expectations.
In addition to a lawyer's fees, you might be expected to pay certain expenses. These should be discussed before hiring a lawyer, and the lawyer should be willing to provide explanations of these charges with each monthly bill. Review your response carefully to see which expenses are included in your legal fee and which expenses are separate.
A client generally pays for the following expenses:
- Photocopying charges
- Long distance telephone charges
- Courier, postage, and overnight delivery charges
- Filing fees
- Court reporter and expert witness charges
- Reasonable travel and transportation charges
A client usually does not pay the following expenses, unless under special circumstances:
- Standard secretarial and office staff services
- Standard office supplies
- Local telephone charges
- In-town meals
- First-class travel costs and out of town meals without restrictions
Ensure that you're not taken by surprise with the hidden costs of expenses. Discuss them with a lawyer before you hire.
18. Always look at your monthly bill.
A monthly bill from a lawyer takes time to look over. It is in your best interest to take the time so that you completely understand where your lawyer is coming from. This can only strengthen the relationship between the two of you.
It is important to ask for specifics if your itemized bill seems unclear in some area. Your bill should show your lawyer's fees and your lawyer's expenses. If you've been charged for five hours of research time, your bill should tell you what exactly was being researched; if it doesn't, you need to ask. All items on your bill should have some degree of explanation.
Track specific time and activities that you are billed for each month. Keep your eye out for time billed that seems repetitious with other bills. If something seems out of the ordinary, don't accuse your lawyer, but question him or her. Even if it's a justified expense, by bringing it up you let your lawyer know that you're paying close attention, which is completely within your rights.
Finally, everyone makes mistakes in math — lawyers too. Don't be afraid to get out the calculator and check the addition. Learn more about Attorney Fees and what are considered Reasonable Lawyer Fees in the LegalMatch Law Library
19. Always evaluate your lawyer.
LegalMatch allows clients to evaluate a lawyer's service on-line after a case is over.
A good lawyer is, above all, a professional. In evaluating your lawyer, evaluate his or her ability to:
- Provide case updates regularly.
- Return your phone calls within one business day.
- Honor deadlines, with a reasonable amount of flexibility.
- Maintain a loyalty to you while keeping honest, even while being critical of your wishes.
- Honor confidences.
- Discuss openly all billing matters while honoring the original agreement for services.
- Refer you to talk to someone else when specialized expertise is needed.
- Appear prepared at meetings or court appearances.
20. If you are happy or unhappy, do something.
If you're happy or unhappy with the lawyer you found on LegalMatch, remember to rate them at LegalMatch. This will help others when deciding whether or not to hire the lawyer. That's how LegalMatch works, and why it works so well.
If you are unhappy with your lawyer, remember that firing your legal counsel can be costly. If you are in the middle of a lawsuit or criminal case, it may also require the court's permission. Act fast, but be certain it's what you want to do.
If you feel your lawyer is being unprofessional, or you were not treated with care and respect, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org before you file a complaint with your state's bar association. We may be able to help resolve any misunderstandings or disputes.
Next » Do I Need a Lawyer?