A lot of people make it well into adulthood without requiring the services of an attorney. However, most will need to consult a lawyer at some point in their lives, whether it's to enter into a mortgage or other contract, file a lawsuit, defend themselves from a criminal charge (like a traffic ticket), or any number of other legal matters.
When it's time to seek the services of an attorney, one of the first considerations that likely enters your mind is cost. How much is an attorney and what are their fees? Read on to learn more about the factors that affect the cost of an attorney's services.
Factors That Affect How Much You'll Spend on Attorney Fees
Unfortunately, the reality is that hiring an attorney can be costly. When it comes to legal issues, however, the assistance of a legal professional can have a significant effect on the outcome of your case.
There are a variety of factors that impact how much you will pay in attorney fees and costs.
Attorneys can use a number of different fee structures, each of which can affect how much you will pay in the end. Here, we will break down the most common types of billing arrangements attorneys use:
Flat Fee Agreement
This type of agreement means the attorney charges a predetermined total fee to provide legal services for a particular type of case. Flat fees are generally paid before the attorney begins working on your case.
This type of payment structure is common for legal situations that mainly require forms to be filed, such as drafting contracts or bankruptcy filings. With this type of arrangement, both parties know the exact total for the legal fees, which means no surprises for you or keeping track of hours for the attorney.
In this payment arrangement, the attorney bills you a set amount per hour. Most often, the attorney tracks their time using increments of an hour, such as quarter hours or tenths of an hour. According to various sources, the average cost per hour of an attorney's time can vary wildly depending on the lawyer's area of specialty, level of experience, and other factors. Hourly rates in Ohio may range from $100 to $600 per hour.
An hourly rate structure typically includes a retainer. A retainer is a lump sum amount that you are required to pay upfront. As your case continues and the retainer is depleted, you may be required to deposit more money.
Unfortunately, it can be nearly impossible to anticipate how much you will pay for legal services under an hourly-rate payment structure.
In cases where the desired outcome is you receiving a monetary settlement, attorneys often use a contingency fee payment agreement. This is the most common fee structure in situations in which the goal is financial compensation, such as personal injury cases, insurance claims, and medical malpractice suits.
In this payment structure, the attorney will not charge you before the case is settled, and most attorneys do not charge you at all if the lawsuit is unsuccessful. If the attorney wins compensation, you agree to pay a prearranged percentage of the settlement to the attorney in exchange for their work.
The Types of Legal Services
The attorney fees you pay are probably most dependent on the type of legal services the attorney must provide. The fees will likely be higher the more specialized the attorney's field of law is.
For example, an attorney specializing in capital murder charges will almost certainly charge more for their services than a defense attorney who works on misdemeanor crimes like shoplifting and DUI.
It's also important to remember that the more complex a case is, the more work it will involve on the part of the attorney. Therefore, more complex cases will end up costing much more than simple cases.
Court Filing Fees and Expert Witness Costs
There will inevitably be fees to file the various required forms and documents with the court. The cost of these filings is the client's responsibility, although the attorney will most likely handle the actual paperwork and legal process on your behalf.
Depending on the type of case, your attorney may seek the services or testimony of expert witnesses. Between the cost of the expert's time and any necessary travel expenses, the cost of the services of an expert witness can add up quickly.
There are often other, less easily-categorized expenses involved in a legal case that you may be required to pay. These can include such items as:
- Investigator fees
- Paralegal hourly fees
- Administrative fees (such as photocopying, research, and faxing)
- Court and criminal fees (if you are found guilty)
Attorney Experience and Track Record of Success
Attorneys who are well-known for winning are in much higher demand than, for example, a brand new attorney fresh out of law school. Experience, knowledge, and a winning track record make a lawyer's time much more valuable, meaning the average attorney fees for such services tend to be higher.
How To Save on Legal Costs
Although hiring an attorney can be costly for the aforementioned reasons, there are ways you can reduce your legal costs. Some tips to mitigate the cost include:
- Do Your Research. Word of mouth is a powerful way to find the right attorney. Ask your friends who they have used as attorneys in the past and find attorneys that specialize in your case type. Don't settle for the first attorney you find; meet with several until you find the one you're most comfortable with.
- Negotiate Your Terms and Set Limits: You have every right to speak with your chosen attorney about the possibility of capping certain costs, limiting administrative fees, or reducing the hourly rate for support staff. Require your attorney to obtain permission before they exceed your maximum limit.
- Request Itemized Billing: An itemized bill will list all of the fees and expenses your attorney charges you, so you can be aware of where your money is going. Many attorneys automatically keep itemized billing records.
- Obtain a Written Copy of the Fee Structure: It is always best practice to ask your attorney for a written copy of your payment agreement or fee structure. Any professional attorney will be more than willing to provide you with this, and you are often provided this upon retaining the attorney.
- Clarify Costs: Make sure you inquire about the various fees and services you will be required to pay, such as court costs, delivery fees, hourly rates for paralegal services, and so on.
- Understand the Fee Agreement Before Signing: This may be the most important tip on this list. Ensure you understand how the fee agreement works, what each individual fee and rate will be, and the approximate time the case will take to settle or go to court.
Discuss Your Matter with One of Our Trusted Attorneys
Finding the right attorney can be a daunting task, but we are here to help. For assistance or for more information, contact the experienced attorneys at The Moore Law Firm today.