What legal fee arrangements are best for me?

The most common types of fee arrangements used by lawyers are listed below.

Contingency fee. Under this arrangement, the attorney's fee is based on a percentage of what you are awarded in the case. If you lose the case, the attorney does not get a fee, although you will still have to pay expenses. 

Flat fee. The lawyer will charge you a specific total fee for your case. A flat fee is usually offered only if your case is relatively simple or routine.

Note: While lawyers will not set a flat fee for litigation, they can usually give you a good estimate of the costs at each stage.

Hourly rate. Attorneys charge by the hour (or portion of an hour). For instance, if your attorney's fee is $200 per hour, and he or she works ten hours, the cost will be $2,000. 

  • Tip: If you agree to an hourly rate, be sure to find out how much experience your attorney has had with your type of case. A less experienced attorney will usually require more time to research your case, although he or she may charge a lower hourly rate.
  • Tip: Ask what is included in the hourly rate. If other staff such as secretaries, messengers, paralegals, and law clerks will be working on your case, find out how their time will be charged to you? Ask about costs and out-of-pocket expenses, which are usually billed in addition to the hourly rate.

Depending upon the kind or type of case any one of the above fee arrangements may be used. While contingency fees are often used in personal injury matters an attorney cannot represent an individual in criminal or domestic matters under such an arrangement.

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