Let’s face it – if you’re hiring a lawyer, it’s likely that something bad has happened in your life, and you need to go to court to fix it or defend yourself. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, lawyers just don’t come cheaply – especially the good ones. You don’t, however, have to break the bank to get yourself out of a sticky situation and hire an attorney. We hope that with these tips and tricks, you’ll be able to hire a lawyer that fits you best, gets you the result you want, and doesn’t rob you blind while doing it!
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?
There’s no one answer to how much a lawyer costs. After all, there are hundreds of different types of lawyers that do countless different things for their clients. Cost can also depend on things like whether or not you have to go to trial, what type of case or deal you’re litigating, whether or not your attorney is seasoned, or straight out of law school – it truly just depends on each, individual situation.
That being said, an average attorney fee – across the board – is usually around $100 to $300 per hour. Attorneys will usually charge by the hour for their services, but some will also require a retainer fee, which is essentially a down payment on your case. Some lawyers, on the other hand, may require you to pay a flat fee, especially if your case is simple.
Without going into each and every payment plan, just like lawyer’s prices may vary, the way they require you to pay them may vary as well. As a result, it’s crucial that, before you agree to work with an attorney, you understand how much your lawyer will be charging you upfront, and how their billing structure will work moving forward.
Once you get an answer from your attorney regarding their pricing, you have a few options. First (and easiest obviously!), you can accept their payment plan and amount. If, however, you’re allowed to negotiate, below you’ll find a few tips and tricks that may help you (and your bank statement!) when your case comes to a close.
1. Contingency Fees
Contingency fees are paid only when a lawyer wins your case successfully. Usually, before you start your case, your attorney will agree to represent you and will take a portion of your recovery (often 1/3) should they be successful in representing you. This means that if you win your case and receive a payout, your attorney will take a portion. If, however, your case is not successful, you do not have to pay your attorney for the work they completed while representing you.
Contingency fees aren’t available in all cases – only those where money or a settlement is on the line. Usually, this means a personal injury or worker’s compensation case, or at least something similar. It’s also important to remember that whether you are successful or not, there will likely still be court filing fees, as well as costs associated with other things that occur during trial, such as deposing a witness, etc.
2. Pro Bono
Pro Bono is a fancy, Latin way of saying that legal services will be given to you for free, or at least for a significantly lower cost to you. In the legal arena, lawyers will represent clients pro bono – for free – to serve public interests. The American Bar Association, which keeps attorneys licensed, recommends that lawyers should donate at least 50 hours a year to work that’s done pro bono. In most instances, it’s offered to nonprofits, but in some events, pro bono legal representation can be available to individuals as well. You can ask your attorney if your case is something that can be pursued on a pro bono basis, or if they have any recommendations for firms that do that sort of work.
3. Payment Plans
If you have to pay a significant amount to your attorney, you may be able to set up a payment plan with your attorney or their office on a periodic basis. This option is usually available in most instances, and most firms and attorneys are relatively accommodating when it comes to payment plan requests.
4. Legal Aid Societies
Legal Aid Societies offer attorneys who work pro bono and are created specifically to help those who are financially challenged with their legal claim. Oftentimes, legal aid societies are sponsored or run by the local Bar association.
In order to qualify for legal aid, you must go into your local applicable office, where they will examine your financial status and your case. Moving forward, if they decide you are an appropriate candidate/client for their assistance, they will offer legal services, which can include things like going to court, mediation, filling out forms and filing court fees, and even sometimes counseling regarding your finances. There are many different societies for different types of law and cases, so chances are there is likely a legal aid society in your community or nearby that may be able to help.
Crowdfunding is the new, hip way to raise a good amount of money rather quickly. And if you have a good story as to why you’re seeking help to pay your legal fees, it’s a great way to get to a large audience for more assistance. Even if you don’t want to take your story online, you can do crowdfunding through your own networks, such as family or friends. You would be surprised – a lot of little donations added up can take you a long way!
6. Financing Legal Fees
Third-party financing, such as something like a personal loan, is another option for paying for the services of your attorney. Essentially, this means that you go to the bank or other type of financial organization that specializes in litigation funding, and ask for a loan using a line of credit for something like your house or another valuable asset. How much you get in terms of your loan payment depends on things like your assets, your career status, your credit history, and other financial concerns. Just remember that eventually, you do have to pay the bank back, regardless of whether or not you win your case!
The fact of the matter is that when you’re having legal troubles and have to hire an attorney, it can get relatively expensive rather quickly. Luckily, however, many options exist outside of emptying your bank account. So use these tips, tricks, negotiating tactics, and resources to keep you and your bank account out of trouble!