Client Portal

How a lawyer gets paid

There are four basic ways a lawyer gets paid.

1) Hourly

An hourly fee is set by the attorney, and you pay for the time spent on your case. “Overall, hourly fees are the most common,” says Monty Silley, New York Attorney.

2) Contingency

“A contingency fee arrangement allows the client to pay only based on a particular outcome of the case (e.g., if you win as a plaintiff, you agree that the lawyer is entitled to keep a percentage). Contingency fees are usually used in tort litigation (e.g., personal injury cases),” says Silley.

3) Retainer

“Retainers can be used in different ways. Often, when an attorney is retained on an hourly or fixed fee basis, the client will be asked to pay a certain amount upfront. This retainer is then like a deposit where the lawyer can pay themselves directly as they complete work. If there is money left over in the retainer at the conclusion of the case, it returns to the client,” says Silley.

4) Fixed flat fee

Flat fees are a set amount charged for a specific service, and they are gaining popularity. 

Fixed fees provide more certainty to the client that their work will get done at a certain price no matter how long it might take the lawyer, and they won’t receive an unexpected bill afterward. However, these are usually only offered where there are standardized forms or filing procedures to be completed (e.g., uncomplicated real estate transactions).”

Silley says, “Fixed fees provide more certainty to the client that their work will get done at a certain price no matter how long it might take the lawyer, and they won’t receive an unexpected bill afterward. However, these are usually only offered where there are standardized forms or filing procedures to be completed (e.g., uncomplicated real estate transactions).”

The type of case you have, and the lawyer you choose, will determine the terms of your payment. For example, Justin D. Kloss of Kloss of Stenger & LoTempio explains, “For businesses and individuals, if it is a simple transaction, we offer flat fees. For litigation clients, we bill hourly.

For personal injury clients, we offer contingency fee arrangements where they do not pay unless we win. Typically, if there will be upfront costs for our firm, or if there is not an established business relationship, we will require an upfront retainer to bill against. Any remaining funds are returned to the client.”

Now that you know how lawyers charge for their services, let’s look at how to make the costs more affordable.

TALK TO A LAWYER

Schedule your consultation in Englsh, Español, 中文, or 한국어.