The amount a lawyer charges you for legal services may include the lawyer's fees plus additional expenses and costs. If the lawyer represents you in a court proceeding, you may have to pay a filing fee or other court costs as well, for example.
Many different costs may appear on the bills you receive from your lawyer. Some lawyers may charge for these costs separately, while others may lump the expenses together as a separate item on your bill. Other attorneys may include some of these costs in their hourly fees.
What Will Be in Your Bill?
Be sure to find out before you hire your lawyer and sign a fee agreement how your attorney will account for these charges in the bill. You can ask for an itemized list if it would make you feel more comfortable. Costs in addition to the lawyer's time may include:
- Filing fees and court costs
- Photocopying costs
- Telephone, fax, and postage charges
- Paralegal, secretarial, and other staff time
- Messenger service fees
- Computer or research-related costs
- Deposition and court reporter costs
- Experts, consultants, and witness fees
- Private investigator fees
- Process servers (delivery of legal documents relating to the case)
- Travel expenses
There may be many other types of charges not listed above. It is a good idea to ask the lawyer for a written estimate of anticipated costs to make sure you understand all the different costs that you will have to pay.
For example, you will want to find out if there is a set rate for some costs (like $0.15 per page for copying costs, for example). If you are concerned about the costs building up, you can also tell your lawyer that you need to approve any costs over a certain amount in advance. You may also be able to negotiate the amount charged for many of these costs in advance. There are several steps you can take to limit some of your expenses.
Remember, you should always feel free to discuss cost concerns with your lawyer and ask questions about what is on your bill. In many cases, you may have more options than you think for resolving a questionable charge.