Legal Fees for a
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How much are attorneys fees?
The exact fee will vary with the services you require.
2. How are attorneys fees calculated?
You have several options on how to agree with your attorney to calculate what
his fee will be.
- Hourly Rate: By far, the most common method of calculating fees is
charging for the amount of time required for each service. Hourly rates can differ
dramatically. A greater hourly rate does not guarantee a superior service. Typical
hourly rates range from $75 per hour up to $300 per hour. Some lawyers have different
hourly rates depending upon the complexity of the case. The more time it takes
to complete your case, the more it can cost under this arrangement.
- Contingency Fee: This method is used to award the attorney an agreed-upon
percentage of your total recovery regardless of how much time the attorney spends
on your case. This method is used most often when a case can be easily and quickly
evaluated with regard to liability and damages. This method is most often associated
with personal injury claims, such as slip and falls and auto accidents.
- Blended Fees: This method is a modern combination of the more traditional
hourly rate and contingency fee options. You and your attorney agree on a cap
for the hourly rate component with a percentage of the recovery payable to the
attorney in the event of recovery. This method compensates the attorney for the
work done in the early stages of the case when neither you nor he can clearly
understand the likelihood of recovery and encourages the attorney to quickly resolve
the matter. Feel free to negotiate the terms of this arrangement. Hourly rates,
the amount of the cap, and the percentage of the contingency fee are often adjusted
to fit each situation. Many busy attorneys will charge a hefty retainer or deposit
just to compensate them for taking on your case along with the rest of their case
3. How much are court costs?
The Federal District Court charges approximately $150 to file a case. State
courts have their own cost structure. The courts, both state and federal, charge
fees for filing legal pleadings and other papers. If there are many motions or
other hearings, the court cost could reach as much as several hundred dollars.
4. Are there any other expenses?
Yes. Attorneys fees do not include your out-of-pocket expenses to pursue
your case. Lawyers are ethically prohibited by most state supreme court rules
from paying those expenses for you. Examples of expenses can include court reporter
fees, copies, subpoena service, experts fees, court costs, deposition transcription
costs, telephone toll calls, travel costs, and other out-of-pocket expenses.
5. What is a reasonable fee?
Each case is different, with fees ranging from several hundred dollars to over
$100,000 in contested matters.
6. I went to one lawyer who said that he would charge a
percentage of the settlement. Isnt this a good deal for someone without
access to financial resources?
It can be. Sometimes a contingency fee in a employment law case makes sense.
Contingency fees by themselves do not always provide incentive for your attorney to aggressively pursue your case. Sometimes a percentage of your recovery will grossly over compensate your attorney. Sometimes it will bankrupt him to do everything that must be done to properly represent you. The best fee in a discrimination case is one that fits your circumstance after consultation with your attorney.
7. The lawyer I selected asked me to pay a retainer. Is
Absolutely. Lawyers are compensated for their time and advice. There is an
old saying that when a client pays a retainer, the client knows he or she has
a lawyer, and the lawyer knows he or she has a client. Always make sure, however,
your agreement with the lawyer is in writing.
8. How do I know if time charges are accurate?
Two very important things to look for are a written agreement or contract and
detailed monthly billing statements or invoices. The written agreement should
spell out in detail how time is billed and fees are calculated. The billing statements
should be generated generally on a monthly basis and be detailed. There is no
iron-clad way of knowing whether time charges are accurate, but insist on an itemized
statement and compare the charges to time you know that was spent. For example,
if you spoke to the lawyer for 15 minutes on February 20, make a record of the
call and compare it with the invoice. If you are concerned, call your lawyer and
ask questions. If you dispute the fee or are not satisfied with the response,
put your reasons in writing and mail it to the lawyer. The lawyer is required
by the ethical code of his profession to respond to your concerns and answer all
questions directly. If the lawyer is evasive, hire another lawyer. If there is
a major dispute that is not resolved, all states have boards that have the authority
to discipline lawyers.
Information provided by Kramer + Crone, PLC, an employment discrimination law firm in Memphis, courtesy of www.AmericanWorkRights.com.
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