7 Legal Fees You Should Know About

by Frank

You never expect to get caught up in legal trouble, so it’s good to be prepared. Legal fees are one of the main factors you should be aware of when it comes to getting legal representation. Below are 7 legal fees you should know about.

Flat Fees

Flat fees are when a lawyer charges you a specific, complete fee for a particular service. Flat fees are generally only offered when your case is a relatively simple one, such as creating a will or an uncontested divorce. This would be, for example, advertisements for a $99 divorce or $200 will creation.

Hourly Rates

Hourly rates are when the lawyer charges you for each hour that he works on your case. This is the most typical fee arrangement. It’s important to note that hourly fees may vary depending on the work done during a given hour – for example, he may charge more per hour for a court appearance than for an hour of legal research. You may also be charged for a full hour even if the lawyer only worked on your case for part of the hour. A final note here is that in larger firms, senior lawyers will have higher fees than the younger associates or paralegals.

Retainer Fees

Retainer fees are a set fee, often based on the lawyer’s hourly rate, and is set aside in a special account. However, retainer fees can be used for and mean different things. In some cases, the lawyer will draw from the retainer fee to cover services performed in your case, such as court appearances, research, drawing up paperwork, etc. In other cases, the retainer fee can be used to retain the lawyer’s services, meaning that the fee ensures the lawyer is “on call” to handle your legal problems for a set period of time. Because there are different ways this fee can be intended, it’s important to discuss this with your lawyer and ensure that you fully understand the arrangement being made when you pay a retainer fee.

Contingent Fees

Contingent fees are when the lawyer takes a percentage of what you win, if your case is won. These are the kinds of fees you hear about on commercials for personal injury and accident lawyers, when they promise that if you don’t win, you don’t pay. However, it’s important to note that the “don’t win, don’t pay” claim doesn’t necessarily mean you pay nothing. You won’t pay the lawyer’s fees, but you will still have to pay for expenses he incurred while working on your case. Contingent fees can vary, but a typical amount is about one-third of whatever you win. A lawyer may charge a sliding scale fee, getting less of your winnings if the case is settled earlier, while getting more if the case is settled later.

These types of fees are generally charged in personal injury, property damage, or other cases where a large amount of money is involved. They may be prohibited for criminal cases, child custody, divorces, if you are being sued, or if you’re buying or selling a business.

Portfolio Fees

Portfolio fees are paid when a lawyer agrees to take on all of your legal work for a set period of time for a predetermined fee. These provide the lawyer with steady work while giving you the predictability of knowing the fee upfront, regardless of the amount of legal work you need. This usually requires the client to have a large number of legal matters, so it’s typically used more with business clients rather than an individual.

It can be used with an individual, however, if that person has enough legal work to keep the lawyer busy. This could be an individual who gives his entire portfolio of real estate over to a real estate attorney, or a wealthy individual with several business interests that requires a lot of legal work.

Penalty Fine (If case is lost)

You may have to pay a Penalty Fine if case is lost. This means that you pay the attorney’s fees for the winning side. These tend to be rare, usually in instances where there is a contractual agreement that the losing side will pay the other’s attorney’s fees.

Usually, if there is a penalty fine if case is lost, you will be made aware of this before you begin the lawsuit, as some people decide not to move forward for fear of having to pay those fees, in addition to paying their own lawyers fees.

Pro Bono Services

Pro bono is short for the Latin term pro bono publico, which means “for the public good.” Every lawyer has a professional responsibility to provide his services to those who can’t afford to pay. Lawyers are required to perform a certain number of pro bono services each year to clients who have limited funds. When you receive pro bono services from your lawyer, this means that you don’t pay for his services. In this instance, your lawyer does all of your legal work for a particular case at no charge to you. There are some lawyers who are pro bono lawyers, meaning that their clients never pay for services, and the lawyer is instead paid by the organization for which he works. Other lawyers do charge for their services, and simply take on a certain number of pro bono cases each year to meet or exceed the requirements.

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