How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?
How Do You Find a Lawyer Within Your Price Range?
You might be wondering, “how much does a lawyer cost”? Lawyer prices depend on many factors, including the reason why you need a legal advocate, level of experience and location. As a result, rates vary dramatically and can average from $200-$400 per hour or even as much as $1,000 per hour.
It’s important to realize, lawyer services are never cheap, even with a simple case. Before hiring a lawyer, discuss all fees associated with your legal issue and ask for an estimated total cost for the case at hand. As you consider how much a lawyer costs, think about what you can afford and what the outcome is worth to you.
Bigger and more established law firms have more expensive lawyers. These firms charge more because they have a lot of experience and a known reputation for winning cases. Choosing a less expensive lawyer is not an advisable option when you have a lot at stake. Sometimes, more expensive and experienced lawyers can cost less overall because they may bring a quicker resolution than a lawyer charging a less expensive rate.
Typical Fee Structures
In most cases, attorneys get paid under one of the following fee arrangements:
This is the most common way lawyers bill. The client and lawyer agree on the hourly rate before getting started with the case. Lawyers do not know exactly how long a certain case may take, so they prefer to bill hourly so they can get paid accordingly. This means that whenever a lawyer works on your case, for however little time, she or he records and documents that time and adds the sum to the overall bill.
Before retaining counsel, clarify with your potential lawyer what hourly increments the firm uses for billing. Some lawyers charge an hour for doing a five-minute task, while others charge in 15-minute increments.
Some lawyers require an up-front retainer fee, which is like a down payment on the case. As the lawyer works on the case, she or he deducts costs from the initial amount you paid and sends you regular invoices. In most cases, the retainer fee is nonrefundable.
For simpler, straightforward cases, lawyers can charge a fixed rate that ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars. If the case has the potential for litigation, then it is unlikely to get a flat fee arrangement.
Some cases eligible for flat fee billing include bankruptcy filings, trademarks, patents and wills. Remember to ask your lawyer what the fixed rate cost covers, because it may not include court filing fees.
Lawyers usually offer this billing with bigger cases that have larger payoffs. With a contingency fee, the client does not have to pay the lawyer until they resolve the case. The fee is a percentage of the settlement or money awarded to the client. Courts sometimes limit contingency fee percentages. They are about 25-40% and are usually negotiable. These cases are usually class actions, medical malpractices or personal injury claims.
Lawyers with little experience sometimes refer their clients to those who do. The referring lawyer sometimes gets a cut of the total fee. Remember to ask if your bill includes a referral fee.
This is a combination of a contingent fee structure and an hourly fee structure. In this situation, the hourly fee is usually lower and there is an agreed-upon payout amount or percentage if the case concludes with the client’s desired outcome.
Pro bono cases are when lawyers work for free and lawyers allot time every year to work on these cases for the greater good. They help those in need of representation, including organizations like legal aid societies or assistance groups.
Lawyers sometimes delay payment until after settling a case. This usually happens when they predict a large payout going in their client’s favor. The fee is a percentage of the settlement amount.
Check with your lawyer for these potential additional costs:
- Expert witness fees
- Investigator hourly fees
- Paralegal hourly fees
- Travel expenses
- Photocopying fees
- Court fees (including service fee, non-expert witness fee, mediation fee and appeal fee)
- Criminal fees (including costs for time spent in jail, criminal records, checks and more)
What Type of Lawyer Do You Need?
There are many areas of law. With this in mind, hire a lawyer experienced in your particular case. The more complicated your case, the more experienced your lawyer ideally should be. As a result, the hourly cost for a lawyer to represent you in a simple case would not be the same for a more complex case.
For hourly rates, you typically receive a monthly bill you must pay within a 30- to 60-day window. Let your lawyer know the level of detail you would prefer on your bill and if you would like to receive a breakdown of time spent on your case.
After transferring a lump sum to the lawyer and the work starts, each month, you get a bill detailing charges deducted from the retainer. If the retainer is almost finished before the trial is over, you must add additional funds to it. However, if you still have money after the trial is over, you get a refund for whatever remains.
With a flat fee payment structure, lawyers give clients an option to pay on a biweekly or monthly basis.
What to Do If You Cannot Afford a Lawyer
According to Miranda Rights, all U.S. citizens have the right to an attorney. If they cannot afford one, the law provides them with one. You could also find a lawyer in your area offering pro-bono services. Other resources include:
- Union-provided legal representation
- Support from civil rights or advocacy groups (such as those that help victims of crimes)
- Insurance-provided legal representation
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
Lawyers are essential to help guide you through the complex legal system. Each state has unique requirements, so work with an experienced local attorney near you who understands what your case requires. Lawyer costs can be expensive, but they do not always have to be.
Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!