Five Things to Look For When Hiring an Attorney, Part 2: Legal Fees
In January, we covered the first part of this five-part series on what to look for when hiring an attorney. In that post, we discussed experience; in this post, we’ll talk about another important topic: legal fees.
One of the first things most people consider when they think about going to see a lawyer is “How much is this going to cost?”
Fortunately, our personal injury law firm in Alabama, Arkansas, and Kentucky is able to provide initial consultations at no charge whatsoever, no matter what your legal issue might be. Almost every client we serve pays no fee at all, unless we are able to recover money for them.
In addition, we usually pay all of the litigation costs associated with pursuing their case. It is important for us to remove all obstacles to our client’s ability to seek justice.
Taking Advantage of Contingency Fees
Our practice is able to provide this service because we use a fee structure referred to as a “contingency fee arrangement.” This means that we only earn a fee if we succeed in making a monetary recovery for the client. Then, a percentage of that recovery becomes our fee. If for some reason we do not achieve a recovery, there is no fee for our time or out-of-pocket expenses.
Such contingency fee arrangements are not the norm in the legal world. Many firms charge hourly rates, which may differ depending on the experience or seniority of the lawyer handling the work. Some lawyers require their clients to pay up-front retainers before the lawyer will even begin to work on their case.
Finding the Right Firm for You
During your initial meeting with your lawyer, ask what their fee structure will be for your case. Ask them to put it in writing. If they are not willing to do that, walk away. There is no reason for you to be left guessing what your legal work may cost. Of course, in an hourly rate fee arrangement, you will also want to discuss how many hours might be involved in the work, how often you will be billed, and what detailed time accounting will be provided with their invoices.
As mentioned earlier, our firm generally does not require the client to pay the litigation costs. Make sure you know whether those costs will be your responsibility up-front, pay-as-you go, or deducted from your recovery, if any. You also want to ask if you will be responsible for fees and costs, even if the case turns out not to go your way.
Don’t be bashful. Lawyers are sometimes as reluctant to discuss fees as you may be hesitant to bring the topic up in the first place. If your lawyer doesn’t break the ice on this topic, do it yourself. Both of you will be better prepared to move forward if you have the fee and expense arrangement ironed out during your first meeting.