Types of Fees and Expenses


There are several types of lawyers' fees depending on the type of case.

Flat Fees:  These are typically used for routine services such as wills, deeds, adoptions, and uncontested divorces.  If complications develop that require additional work, an additional fee may be required.

Hourly Fees:  Before agreeing to an hourly fee, have the lawyer estimate how many hours your case may take.  Then, make sure you are notified periodically of how many hours the lawyer has put into your case and the amount of the total.  Since hourly rates for work done by junior associates, law students, and paralegals are less, make sure the lawyer explains who will be working on the case and that an appropriate hourly rate is set.

Contingent Percentage Fees:  The attorney is paid a "contingent" fee only if he or she is successful in recovering money.  All contingent fee arrangements must be in writing.  Many attorneys take personal injury cases, collection cases, and employment-related injury cases on a contingency fee basis.  This allows a client without much money to pursue a claim that would be out of reach if she or she had to pay an hourly fee.

Retainer Fees:  There are two kinds of "retainers":  Those paid as a down payment at the beginning of a case, and those paid monthly or annually (usually by a business) to insure the continuous availability of a lawyer or firm for ongoing, routine legal needs.

Costs and Expenses:  Some costs and expenses will be charged regardless of the billing method such as court filing fees, service fees for delivering documents, witness fees, phone calls, etc.  These expenses are not part of the legal fees and are often simply called "costs."  You must pay the costs and expenses that relate directly to your case, regardless of the fee arrangement you have with your lawyer.  Your lawyer will usually pay these costs as they are incurred, and you will be billed for them at regular intervals or at the close of the case.