Attorney Fees: What Clients Need To Know

I’m chuckling because the other day I received an email from somebody who had inquired into the hourly attorney fee that is charged. They asked if we have any student attorneys that we can provide? They don’t want to pay too much for an attorney, and I understand that people are sensitive to attorney fees. But there are no such things as student attorneys. There are experienced attorneys and inexperienced attorneys. They then asked how much for an inexperienced attorney? I had to laugh because generally, people don’t hire a doctor or other professional based on inexperience. Most people want an experienced professional on their side.

When it comes to hiring an attorney, here are three fee structures to engage with.  One is a flat fee.  Attorney flat fees are usually for dealing with matters that are not complex.  They’re usually more routine matters, such as preparing a simple will or real estate closing.  Things that don’t require a lot of research and time.  That’s where a flat fee would come into play. Attorneys also charge on a contingency basis. Now with contingency fees, they are usually dealing with personal injury attorneys. This would not be a real estate transaction. And most often, you’re not going to be dealing with a matter in a criminal case using contingency fees. In fact, I think it’s illegal to do contingency fees in a criminal matter. And the contingency is basically that the attorney only gets paid if you win.

The last type of fee that people pay would be the hourly rate and that’s usually the most contentious. People are looking for the least expensive hourly rate. Well, first of all, the hourly rate is based on the amount of time that an attorney will dedicate towards a case. So it’s charged by the hour.  A portion of the work that’s done will require a portion of the hourly rate.  The more experienced and successful the attorney is, the higher the hourly rate.  For less experienced attorneys, you will pay a lower hourly fee.

Fees are also based on location. Some areas have a lower hourly rate than, let’s say, a metropolitan area. A more urban area will have more expensive hourly rate than let’s say, a rural area. So those are things to look at.  But don’t discount experience. You can have a very experienced attorney who’s charging you perhaps a bit more on an hourly basis. However, they’re going to be able to get that transaction or that matter done probably faster than somebody who’s got less experience and doesn’t practice in the area. So if you think you’re paying for a lower hourly rate, well, it may be that that inexperienced attorney takes longer to resolve the matter.

Finally, before you hire an attorney and discuss a fee structure, remember those points.  And also, you can negotiate the hourly rate with your attorney. There are things such as expenses, filing expenses, court expenses that can’t be negotiated. So you should also talk to your attorney about those expenses related to your file. Most attorneys want to be competitive and want to work with good cases with good people.

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