One of the considerations to make when you hire an attorney is how much it will cost and how the fees will be determined. There are a number of different ways of paying for an attorney, which are set out below. Fees consist of two main elements– the cost of the labor that your attorney does on your case, and the expenses he or she incurs while dealing with your case which can consist of photocopying, telephone calls, travel expenses and paying for external consultants such as experts or private investigators. It can be very helpful and save you money, to make sure that you have gathered together as much information as possible about your case and any evidence you have to support it before you go to see your attorney. This will help your attorney understand your case and will save them time, and you money.
A fixed fee agreement is often used in situations in which an attorney is carrying out a specific service for you, such as incorporation or drawing up a will. It is also widely used in criminal cases. An attorney gives an estimate of the cost of the total amount the case will cost and tries to obtain as much of that amount as possible up front. In larger criminal cases, for example, for white-collar fraud allegations the attorney may be paid with a retainer at the beginning and then be paid in monthly or other regular increments.
If you are hiring an attorney on the basis of an hourly rate, you should always try to negotiate. Rates are generally relative to the type of attorney’s office, overheads etc. If a law firm has a huge, city centre presence and a good reputation you would expect the hourly fee to be more than that of a single lawyer working out of a serviced office in a suburban area. Although all attorneys have insurance, the risk involved in taking on the case will also be a determining factor in the hourly rate.
Often, in cases involving personal injury or commercial matters amongst others, the client is unable to afford to pay an attorney an hourly or fixed rate. This type of arrangement is also beneficial to the legal system as a whole, as vexatious claims don’t get to court and the attorney is encouraged to work hard to achieve the best result for their client. Most importantly contingency fees mean that no one is excluded from access to justice - no matter what their background or economic circumstances.
This type of fee combines the contingency fee with a heavily discounted hourly rate. It is often used in situations that require a considerable amount of work over a long period of time, or in cases that have a less likely or less lucrative prospect of success, than might be with a case subject to a contingency fee.
Before you sign anything with your attorney, make sure you have read the terms and conditions of hire. It is worth checking the provisions relating to travel expenses and how time is calculated. For example, some attorneys bill in timed increments. This means that even if a telephone call takes 3 minutes, it will be recorded as one unit, which could be 6 minutes, or even 15 minutes. With fixed or hourly rate cases, don’t forget to negotiate. If you need legal advice, speak to an attorney.