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How Much Should a Solo Lawyer Charge?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

Figuring out what to charge your clients is likely a daunting and nerve-wracking step toward setting up a solo practice. How much should a solo lawyer's fees be?

The answer to that question is, of course, partially dependent on what practice areas your firm's practice will be in, as some practice areas charge a higher rate than others.

And, it's also dependent on where your practice is geographically located. Some legal markets generally have higher fees than others.

But, if you're interested in figuring out a decent benchmark to weigh your legal fees against, consider the Laffey Matrix.

Developed out of the case of Laffey v. Northwest Airlines Inc. out of the federal district court in Washington, D.C., the matrix is a table of hourly attorney's fees that should be charged for attorneys depending on the year and how many years of experience they have.

While the Laffey Matrix may not be definitive, it certainly does provide at least a measuring tool that can help clients understand why you're charging what you're charging.

In deciding how much you should charge, solo lawyers might also consider discussing or figuring out what similar attorneys in your locale, specializing in your practice area, generally charge. Keep in mind, however, that as a fresh graduate, you might not want to be charging the same amount as an attorney who has 20 years of experience in the field.

Of course, the Laffey Matrix is relevant mostly to attorneys who are looking to charge hourly fees. What about solo lawyer's fees for contingency-based cases? If you're a solo attorney opting to go for contingency fees, figuring out which percentage to charge your client may actually turn into a case-by-case evaluation, with varying fees for different clients.

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