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Fees, Costs and Expenses

Legal Malpractice – Fees, Costs and Expenses

If you are unable to settle a compensation dispute with a lawyer, you should consult a legal malpractice attorney to explore your legal options.

Many clients who are dissatisfied with their lawyers’ handling of their cases have gauged the lawyers’ performances against the amount of money they paid the lawyers for handling the cases. It is important to understand the various fees, costs, and expenses associated with an attorney’s compensation for legal services, before you dispute a lawyer’s bill. Following is an overview of the charges you can expect a lawyer to incur in handling your case, and the fees you can expect to pay.

Types of Legal Fees

  • Consultation Fee: The lawyer may charge a fixed or hourly fee for your first meeting, where you both determine whether the lawyer can assist you. Be sure to check whether you will be charged for this initial meeting.
  • Flat Fees: A lawyer charges a specific, total fee. A flat fee is usually offered only if your case is relatively simple or routine, such as a will or an uncontested divorce.
  • Hourly Fees: The lawyer may charge you for each hour (or portion of an hour) that the lawyer works on your case. Some lawyers charge different fees for different types of work (legal research versus a court appearance), and lawyers working in large firms typically have different fee scales with more senior members charging higher fees.
  • Referral Fee: A lawyer who refers you to another lawyer may ask for a portion of the total fee you pay for the case. Just like other fees, the total fee must be reasonable and you must agree to the arrangement.
  • Retainer Fees: Think of a retainer as a “down payment” against which future costs are billed. Alternately a retainer fee can mean that the lawyer is “on call” to handle your legal problems over a period of time.
  • Contingent Fees: The lawyer’s fee is based on a percentage of the amount awarded in the case. If you lose the case, the lawyer does not get a fee, but you will still have to pay expenses. A one-third fee is common on contingency.

Fee Amount

Every client wants to know what the handling of their case will cost when it’s all said and done. The amount of legal fees in your case will depend on several factors, including:

  • The time and labor required to handle your case;
  • The novelty and difficulty of the legal issues involved, and the skill required to properly handle your case;
  • The likelihood that the acceptance of your case will limit your lawyer’s opportunity to handle other cases while representing you;
  • The time limitations imposed by you or by your circumstances;
  • The experience, reputation and ability of the lawyer performing the services.
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Costs

The amount a lawyer charges you for legal services may include the lawyer’s fees, plus additional expenses and costs the lawyer incurred in handling your case. If the lawyer will represent you in a court proceeding, you may have to pay a filing fee or other court costs as well. There are a number of costs that may appear on your lawyer’s bill. Some lawyers may charge for these costs separately. Other lawyers may lump the expenses together as a separate item on your bill, while others may include some of these costs in their fee. In any event, the costs in addition to the lawyer’s time may include:

  • Filing fees and other court costs;
  • Photocopying;
  • Telephone and postage charges;
  • Paralegal Time;
  • Messenger service costs;
  • Computer or on-line legal research costs;
  • Secretarial and staff time costs;
  • Deposition and court reporter costs, including transcripts;
  • Costs for experts, consultants, and witnesses;
  • Costs for investigators;
  • Process servers (for delivery of legal documents relating to case);
  • Travel Expenses.

There may be other charges not listed above. It is a good idea to ask the lawyer for a written estimate of anticipated costs to make sure you understand all the different costs that you will have to pay. For example, you will want to find out if there is a set rate for some costs (e.g., $0.15 per page for copying costs). If you are concerned about the costs building up, you can also tell your lawyer that any costs over a certain amount have to be approved by you in advance. You also may be able to negotiate in advance the amount charged for many of these costs.

If you are unable to settle a compensation dispute with a lawyer, you should consult a legal malpractice attorney to explore your legal options.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.