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No one wants to be involved in a civil lawsuit. These simple tips to understanding lawyers' fees can at least help you with your case.

Understanding Lawyer Fees in Civil Cases

One of the biggest concerns that people have when hiring a lawyer is, knowing how much it will cost them. Every lawyer knows this, and it is their obligation to explain to their clients what they are charging them for before they sign the contract.

Every attorney has a different fee. This can depend on their reputation, expertise, area of specialization, and your case. Here are some of the most common lawyer fees.

Consultation Fees

Several lawyers offer a free consultation, while some charge an upfront fee. The consultation fee is usually charged on a flat rate basis and is mainly to facilitate the lawyer’s first meeting as they determine whether or not they will take your case.

Confirm your lawyer fees in a civil claim and the consultation fees before you make an appointment with them.

Flat Fees

In some legal matters, especially if a lawyer is used to handling a lot of similar cases in large volumes, they can charge flat fees. This allows the attorney to work the cases through standardized practices and use forms. 

Flat fees are common in simple cases such as mortgage foreclosures, will preparations, uncontested divorces, and tenant evictions.


Contingency Fees

This fee is very common with medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers. The fee is based on a percentage of the amount that their client will be awarded in a settlement. This means that if you lose the case, your lawyer also walks away with no payment. However, you will still have to pay for the expenses that they incurred.

Most lawyers charged a one-third fee, but there are some lawyers and jurisdictions that can adjust the rate depending on the case. Some courts also set a limit on the amount that a lawyer can charge for contingency. 

These fees work for attorneys if there is a high stake because they might lose if they invest in a relatively small case. Lawyers can also be banned from charging a contingency fee for cases like criminal defense or child custody.

Hourly Rate

This is the most common lawyer fee arrangement. Lawyers who charge per hour rate usually keep track of their time in fractions of an hour. The rate will depend on the lawyer. Some lawyers charge $100/hour for preparation and $200/hour for litigation. In addition to that, they can also charge for some paralegal fees, which are usually at a lesser rate than lawyers fees. 

Statutory Fee

There are jurisdictions that set the amount of money a lawyer can charge for a particular service, such as bankruptcy cases and probate. The regulation or state will advise a client on how much to pay for the legal services. 

Retainer Fees

This fee is a deposit that a client pays towards the cost of the services they need to assure the attorney that they will be paid. A retainer is based on the lawyer’s hourly rate and is placed in a trust account. 

The cost of legal services is deducted from that account as they accumulate. Retainer fees are non-refundable, but this can also be rendered invalid by a court. The fee basically means that a lawyer is always on call whenever the client needs them.

Know Your Lawyer’s Fees You Before You Hire Them

Regardless of how much your lawyer is charging you, ensure you have a written contract. Read the agreement and seek clarification to avoid conflicts. Be sure that the final amount you pay includes all legal services including deposition, postage, copies, and more, because such extra fees are not included in the lawyer’s fees. 

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