Legal fees can be one of the most expensive during an investigation or even court trial. To make matters worse, the exact structure of legal fees tends to be too complex, given that most lawyers don’t advertise their rates on their websites.
So, what should you do?
Make that phone call, request that meeting, and discuss rates. But that brings another problem – what options will you likely have on the table?
To help you maneuver this tricky negotiation, here are five fee arrangements you might probably get from your lawyer. All you have to do is select which plan works best for you, your lawyer, and the kind of services you require.
So, read on.
This is the de-facto fee arrangement among many law firms and attorneys. As a rule of thumb, associates tend to charge lower hourly rates compared to partners, who offer premium rates.
However, the cheaper associate rates usually come at the cost of prolonged investigations, compared to partners who leverage on their prior experience for faster execution. ‘’The state will rely on the input and testimony of experts as it designs its case against you”, according to Koening and Owen LLC.
With most attorneys, hourly rates come bundled together with a retainer, which stands in as a deposit before the attorney and his team start working on your case.
The biggest advantage with hourly billing is that it reflects on the true effort put in by the attorney on your case. Thus, if it’s a small, short case, the total bill will be significantly lower.
Flat or Fixed Rates
With flat or fixed rates, the attorney charges a flat fee for a specific service offered. In most cases, an attorney might charge a fixed or flat rate if the service requested is simple, non-time consuming, and will not lead to future legal complications.
For instance, you might be charged a flat rate of $1000 by the attorney if you want him/her to create a basic estate plan. For such a service, they might create for you a will, revocable living trust, and living will.
The fee charged depends entirely on what you agree on and it can span anything from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
With this kind of payment, the attorney receives a percentage of the client’s settlement or verdict. This means you’ll pay the attorney only if a specific outcome is achieved. In most cases, that outcome would be a win or settlement.
Contingency fees are preferred mostly in personal injury, medical malpractices, class action, or other lawsuits in which a monetary award will be given. The biggest advantage here is, the client doesn’t have to pay upfront for the legal services.
The risk is, thus, shifted from the client to the lawyer, given his/her reimbursement is contingent to a positive and agreed upon outcome.
Percentage fees are based on the issue you hired the attorney to address or the value at stake in the case. Unlike contingency fees, percentage fees are preferred in estate and probate cases, or in certain situations where your entertainment attorney is also your manager or agent.
For instance, if you were left an estate worth $1 million, the attorney you’ve hired to manage the estate may charge you (or the estate), a certain percentage of its value for his/her services. In most cases, this percentage will be served in stages say, 4% for the 1st $50,000, 3% for the next $200,000, and 1% for the remaining $750,000.
Pro Bono, translated from Latin, means “for the public good”. This is a very special fee arrangement where the attorney works for the client for free. In many cases, a private attorney may offer a few pro bono services a year to his/her clients.
On the other hand, associates too and some legal aid societies may offer attorneys in pro bono to clients who can’t otherwise afford them.
In a nutshell
Paying for legal fees shouldn’t be the most daunting bit of acquiring legal services from a law firm or attorney. There are usually a ton of options available, so what you have to do is sit down and discuss with your attorney which arrangement will suit both of you best, considering your budget, plus services.