The most common question I get is; how much will “X” cost me? Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible for me to tell a person how much whatever task they need an attorney for should cost this because there are too many factors to consider to be able to give a certain answer. First of all what kind of case is this? Civil or Criminal? If it’s criminal; what are the facts of the case? Does the client have any prior criminal history? What court has jurisdiction (where will I be fighting this case)? What does the client want from this case? Every case is special in its own way and that changes what happens with each particular case. If the case is Civil… what kind of civil case is it? Family, contractual, plaintiff’s work, defense work? and many other types of cases. What Court will have jurisdiction over the case? What does the client want from this case?
There are three ways an attorney can bill for the work being done. The first way is by the hour. This is usually done by corporate attorneys or attorneys that have continuous litigation to attend to for their client. I have seen this range from $150 per hour to $500 per hour. The plus side is an attorney can usually give a good range of what the final cost will be and if they finish early you will not continue to be billed. The down side is you really don’t know what your attorney is doing with their billable hours.
The second way is a contingency fee. This is usually done with car wreck cases or other plaintiff’s cases. You know you’ve heard it “we don’t get paid unless you get paid” this is done when let’s say you’re in a car accident that wasn’t your fault and you want to sue the person that hit you. Most attorneys waive an hourly fee to sue the other driver (actually the other driver’s insurance company) and if they collect a settlement for you the attorney takes a percentage so you never have to pay out of your own pocket. This type of fee can be really great so you don’t have to invest your own money in a case that doesn’t have a guaranteed outcome. The negative side to this type of fee is that the attorney in a big case can sometimes take up to 50% of your winnings. (This high of a rate is usually only on civil cases that the attorney has invested a lot of their own money and time, like $20,000+ and months or years of work.
The third and final way is a flat rate fee. A flat fee is usually done when an attorney is experienced enough to recognize the type of case you have and have a good enough understanding how much time and effort will be put into the case depending on the clients expectations. This is the standard way a criminal case is charged. The great thing about this fee is you know exactly how much this case will cost you and most attorneys allow for payment plans to be set up. There really isn’t a negative side to this type of billing because you can always say “no” and go somewhere else before you hire an attorney after you know what they are charging for the task. However, you often get what you pay for.