HOW LAWYERS CHARGE
people who need legal help are reluctant to see a lawyer because
they are afraid that legal services are expensive. Actually, in
many cases fees are moderate in comparison with the benefits gained
or the losses avoided. It often turns out to be more expensive tin
the long run not to see a lawyer. When you consult the lawyer in
person, ask at the outset about fees. It is in the best interest
of both the lawyer and the client to have a clear understanding
of the fee for the lawyer's services in advance so there will be
no misunderstanding later.
A lawyer's only stock-in-trade is time and advice.
are three basic types of fees for legal services:
- Hourly Fee:
In some cases, particularly civil litigation and contested domestic
matters, the lawyer will charge an hourly fee. The lawyer will
keep accurate time sheets describing the time spent on your case.
Fee: In certain other cases, lawyers charge a contingency
fee, where an agreement is made with the client in advance that
the lawyer will get, as a fee, a percentage of the amount recovered
after certain expenses are deducted. In this case, the lawyer
is paid only if the client wins the case. In most cases, the client
will be responsible for the costs regardless of the court decision.
This is most commonly see in personal injury cases.
- Flat Fee:
The flat fee is where the lawyer has a set fee for the service
to be provided, regardless of the time involved. Flat fees are
commonly used in defense of criminal charges, some civil cases,
and routine matters such as uncontested domestic matters, preparation
of simple wills, deeds, and other similar documents.
No two situations are
alike. A lawyer will consider many of the following factors in arriving
at a fair fee:
Other issues may be
considered in setting fees: novelty and difficulty of the problem,
amount of responsibility assumed by the attorney, custom in the
geographical area, and preclusion of other employment during a particular
Are there any restrictions
on a contingency fee?
Yes. A lawyer may not charge
a contingency fee in a criminal case where the fee depends upon
the outcome. Likewise, a lawyer may not charge a contingency fee
in a contested domestic relations matter. Public policy dictates
that a lawyer's fee not be dependent upon securing a divorce, the
amount of alimony or child support ultimately awarded.
Must the lawyer/client
fee agreement be in writing?
In Nevada, a contingent fee agreement
must be in writing and must state the method by which the fee is
to be determined, including the percentage of the recovery and whether
expenses are to be deducted before or after the contingent fee in
calculated. Ask your lawyer to explain what expenses will be charged
and when the client's costs are to be paid. Obtaining a written
fee agreement in advance is in the best interest of the client,
so that there will be a written record in the event that there is
a dispute later about the lawyer/client relationship.
What is a retainer?
A retainer is the initial fee paid by the
client to begin representation on a particular matter. The lawyer
and client should have a firm understanding of exactly what is contemplated
and covered by that initial retainer. Your lawyer is required to
place these retainers in a special account called a trust account,
against which your legal matter will be billed until completed.
If the retainer is insufficient, the attorney may ask for additional
funds to be used in the same manner. Likewise, unused funds at the
end of the legal matter remain the property of the client and should
be reimbursed to the client after all expenses are paid.
What are "costs"?
A lawyer must spend money to file papers
with the Court, to hire other persons such as court reporters or
investigators, etc. These expenses are known as costs and are normally
paid by the client in addition to the lawyer's fees. Costs are in
addition to the attorney's bill for his or her time and effort.