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How to Ensure Reasonable Attorney Fees

Our book How to Use Legal Forms takes you through how to find an attorney step-by-step, how to work with them effectively, and manage fees. In this article we cover the basics of fee management.

Often people are unfamiliar with working with attorneys and embarrassed to broach the subject of money, however, it is up to you as a client to raise the topic if you are not clear on the way the fees are structured, think they are too high, or foresee difficulty paying them. You can manage your relationship with your attorney to minimize costs in number of ways:

  • There are certain statutory maximum limits that an attorney can charge, and you need to check that these are not exceeded. With contingency there are different limits depending on the type of claim
  • Using legal forms is an excellent way to prepare for meetings, and clarifies the main points to be discussed
  • Make sure that you bring all the required supporting documents
  • Try to be concise and direct when discussing issues with your attorney
  • Provide background information to minimize the research that your attorney needs to do

Discussing fees may be just as uncomfortable for your attorney as it is for you, but one golden rule to minimize this discomfort is to raise the topic of these fees early! Also, you should make yourself familiar with the way legal fees are charged.

How Legal Fees are Calculated

There are a few different ways that legal fees can be structured:

  • Flat Fee
  • Hourly Rate
  • Contingency Fee
  • Referral Fee

A flat fee is what many clients feel most comfortable with since the total fee for the case is agreed at the outset. One thing to watch out for is the way expenses are treated under this agreement – attorney photocopying fees are going to be more than your local Kinkos so you should try to get a sense of what the likely expenses are going to be if they are not included in the flat fee.

When you are billed based on an hourly rate the rates will vary depending on the seniority of the attorneys working on your case. You should define at the outset the hourly rate for all the staff that will work on your case (senior attorneys, junior attorneys, secretaries, messengers, law clerks, and paralegals), along with an estimate on how the fees will be split between them.

Contingency fees are where an attorney takes a percentage of any money you are awarded in a case. Although you don’t pay any fees, if you lose the case you still have to pay expenses. And if you win the case you should check to see whether the attorney’s fee is paid after expenses have been deducted, or before.

Referral fees are between attorneys and occur when an attorney who took your case then passes it on to another attorney in return for a portion of the fees that you pay to the second attorney.

How to Minimize Fees
Before you set out to consider every way possible to reduce your legal bills you should remember the importance of retaining good counsel. At the end of the day the best attorneys charge more because their superior service, and ability to protect your rights, commands a higher fee in the marketplace for legal services. However, don’t be afraid to discuss fees with your attorney.

It is often that case that fees are negotiable, especially if your case is a large one that will generate a significant amount of fee income. Since what is significant to a small law firm is quite different to a large one, you may have more room to negotiate with a smaller firm, but never compromise on quality – a dollar saved could be thousands of dollars lost if you select a cheap attorney over a good one.

Another tip is to meet with a number of attorneys before selecting one. That way you should get a range of price points and experience levels to choose from. When you have a relatively simple case that is charged for on a flat fee basis shopping around is a perfectly reasonable step.

Finally, when you do get the bill don’t be embarrassed to check it thoroughly. You should make sure that you are billed regularly and check through both the fees and expenses. Discuss any items you don’t understand with your attorney.

Further Information

For further information we recommend that you purchase How to Use Legal Forms. To buy now just click here. The courts are clogged with people who entered into agreements that don’t afford them the protection they thought they did at the time. Some of the most common mistakes are people using outdated forms that don’t take account of new laws that have been passed, and the inclusion of terms that are unenforceable under the jurisdiction that governs the agreement. The book How to Use Legal Forms helps you avoid these pitfalls.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the email mini course, which delivers more information on legal forms direct to your mailbox. Just enter your name and email into the contact form at the top right of this page.

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