Once you've decided to hire an attorney for legal advice and legal services, reviewing any agreement before signing is important. An attorney will have a representation or fee agreement that tells you the fees and costs associated with the representation.
Representation agreements are essential because they tell clients how and who will work on their case in the lawyer's office. A clear fee structure outlines the fees and costs for the legal work the attorney and their staff will perform and lets the client figure out whether they can afford the attorney. A clear fee structure can also be helpful to avoid a fee dispute in the future.
This article provides information about representation agreements and the types of legal fees and costs you can expect when hiring someone for legal representation. You can also find information about legal malpractice lawsuits and a section on reducing legal costs and expenses.
What To Expect From Your Lawyer
A relationship with an attorney starts with an initial consultation. At this meeting, the attorney will give you their thoughts about your case and let you know the legal fees to handle it. These fees can differ depending on the type of case and the amount of legal help you need.
After hiring an attorney, you might wonder what to expect from your attorney. While an attorney can't guarantee a specific outcome, there are some things that they can guarantee. An attorney should talk with you regularly, follow ethical rules, represent you competently, and bill you as outlined in the fee agreement.
Communication between an attorney and a client is critical. Good communication means the client can feel comfortable that the attorney is working on their case. Of course, an attorney can't constantly communicate with the client. After all, they usually handle many legal matters. But, an attorney needs to return a call or email within a reasonable time or explain why they couldn't respond sooner. The attorney must also update the client with any new developments in the case.
By law, lawyers must follow the ethical rules of the state they practice. There are some themes common to the ethical rules of each state. The ethical rules require that an attorney maintain attorney-client privilege, represent the client's interests loyally, and not engage in criminal activities. States also generally require that attorneys keep a separate bank account called a trust account for their clients' money. Finally, the lawyer must handle each legal matter "competently."
Types of Fee Arrangements
How much a legal matter will cost depends on various things, including the case's complexity, the costs involved, the amount of time spent on your legal issue, and the lawyer's experience. Usually, an attorney will also factor in overhead expenses — such as rent, utilities, office equipment, etc. — when deciding on their fee. You can expect a few common types of fee arrangements when you hire an attorney.
The most common type of fee arrangement is when the attorney charges an hourly rate. This fee allows the attorney to charge an hourly fee that they work on your legal matter. The hourly rate can vary depending on the type of work performed — a court appearance versus legal research. Also, large firms will usually have different fee scales depending on the seniority of the attorneys, with senior members charging more than young associates. A paralegal will bill at an even lower rate. Your written fee agreement will explain what the lawyers charge for their services and the retainer fee they need upfront. The firm will put the retainer fee in a trust account until it has earned the money.
A common type of fee arrangement for personal injury lawyers is a contingency fee. A contingency fee arrangement pays the lawyer based on the amount awarded in the personal injury case, whether by a judgment or a settlement. If the client loses the case, the lawyer doesn't get the fee, but the client still has to pay for expenses associated with the case, such as expert witness fees. Lawyers can also charge a contingency fee in property damage cases or other cases that potentially result in a large settlement or judgment. They can't use contingency in criminal cases or family law matters. A contingent fee agreement contains a fee percentage of the amount of money the lawyer receives for the client.
Another type of fee arrangement is a flat fee. A flat fee is a specific amount for tasks such as a simple will, uncontested divorce, or handling a traffic ticket.
Your flat fee agreement should tell you how they will bill things like filing fees and travel expenses on top of the lawyer's fees. They will also specify how the lawyer will contact you as the case progresses.
Local legal aid organizations can provide legal assistance if you cannot afford an attorney. Many local bar associations also have lawyer referral programs for low-income people.
These pages also have essential information that can help you decide which lawyer to hire:
Consult a Lawyer
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to protect your rights best. Visit our attorney directory to find the right lawyer near you who can help with your legal issues.