The world of law can be intimidating, and just how those who practice law get paid is often mysterious. Some advertise they do not get paid unless they win your case, and others are paid by the hour or by the job. Some of the ways that lawyers get paid depend on the kind of case it is, but there are always exceptions even in those cases. The CLLB Law Firm practices many kinds of laws, so there are different ways to pay for our services. We try to make this clear up front so both the client and our attorneys can focus on the case we are representing.
We practice law in Indiana and Kentucky and each state has some unique rules for those that practice law. We are well versed in both states’ legal procedures, and at times we have both states involved in the same case. How lawyers get paid is not very different in the two states.
How Do Lawyers Get Paid?
The basic way lawyers are paid include:
- Consultation fees
- Flat rate
- Hourly rate
Cases where the aim is to recover losses caused by negligence, often called personal injury cases, are often handled on a contingency. This means the attorney only gets paid when the case is either won or settled. These cases are risky for the attorney, which is why a free consultation is often offered. A lawyer can decide whether the case is winnable and probably will not take the case unless there is a good chance of winning.
Contingency cases put the attorney at risk for not getting paid, but there is also a chanc3e for a big payoff. Normally the attorney gets 33 percent of the settlement that is given in a case. Most of these cases are settled in negotiation and never reach the level of a trial. In these cases, it is in the interest of the lawyer to get as big of a settlement as possible.
These are often personal injury cases, but your attorney may or may not want to take a case on a contingency basis. This is something that can be negotiated with the attorney as you seek legal assistance. A contingency fee situation would not be available for a criminal case, for instance, because there is no monetary gain for either side at the end of the case.
Often attorneys specializing in personal injury cases will offer a free consultation. This is basically a time for them to get information to help them decide if the case is winnable and worth taking. Some law firms do not do free consultations, especially those that work on a wide variety of cases. The consultation takes about an hour, and that is an hour the attorney could be working on a case, or for a client who is paying. To some lawyers, this makes free consultations not worth the cost.
A flat fee is a simple fee for a service or a certain type of case. These are cases that are routine and fairly easy to take care of. A will, uncontested divorce, are two examples of this kind of case. The lawyer has a template that they can adjust to fit the individual needs of the case, but the matter is something that most likely will not be contested and takes a set amount of time.
The flat fee takes into consideration how much time the case will take. The attorney has handled a lot of these cases and knows what is involved, so the flat fee structure is based on what the lawyer has experienced.
A lot depends on how simple or complex the case is. A simple will is not likely to get complicated, so there is a set fee. If it is a more complex matter the attorney might give a price range instead of a flat fee estimate.
Attorneys charge by the hour and that means the cost could be different than what you had anticipated. Time in the courtroom is obviously part of that fee, but it also includes preparation time which is often longer than the time in the courtroom.
A retainer is a twist on the hourly rate. The retainer basically assures the client the attorney will be available when needed to work on a case on an hourly basis.
A person who often needs legal services might want to have a retainer with an attorney. A business owner for instance could have collections, contracts, and other things that come up so they would need an attorney often. The retainer basically saves them a place at the table.
Another angle on the retainer is when the attorney charges an upfront fee. That money is placed in a trust fund, and the lawyer’s actual payment comes out of that trust fund account each month. It may also be used when a client has not paid legal fees. When cases are very long the expenses can get very high. This protects the attorney from a situation where the client may decide it isn’t worth it and refuse to pay the bill.