What billing method do most lawyers use?
The most common billing method is to charge a set amount for each hour of time the lawyer works on your case. More experienced lawyers tend to charge more per hour than those with less experience—but they also may take less time to do the same legal work. In addition, the same lawyer will usually charge more for time spent in the courtroom than for hours spent in the office or performing legal research.
What is a retainer?
A retainer is a fee that the client pays in advance. The attorney must place that fee in a trust account. As the lawyer performs work, he or she withdraws money from that trust account as payment for the work done. Any amount that is left over after legal representation has concluded must be refunded to the client.
A client may choose to pay using a retainer fee in order to demonstrate that they are serious about their case and wish to retain the lawyer’s services. Retainer fees help to establish a harmonious attorney-client relationship. It indicates that the client can trust the lawyer with their funds and that the two are willing to work together.
Retainers are beneficial for both the attorney and the client because it allows the client to manage how much they spend, as well as, ensures that the law firm is paid for the work they do. Traditionally, when the retainer account gets low or has been fully used, the client either refills the account or can chose to end the services.
Is there anyway to set a flat fee so I will know what I am paying up front?
Lawyers may use a flat fee in handling certain cases where the work involved is usually straightforward, predictable, and routine. Thus some lawyers may use flat fees or set rates in uncontested divorces, simple wills, traffic tickets and misdemeanors, adoptions and name changes.
Flat fees are standard in criminal cases and the amount of the fee depends on the level of the offense and other issues present in the case.
What if my case is quick and hardly takes the lawyer any time at all. Will I get money back?
A flat fee is usually paid ahead of time and does not vary depending on the amount of time or work involved. No refund is due if the work takes less time than expected and no additional charge is made if the case is longer or more complex than usual.
Is there anything I can do to reduce my legal costs?
Yes, there are several cost-cutting methods available to you. First, answer all your lawyer's questions fully and honestly. It will save time and help your lawyer do a better job.
Remember that the ethics of the profession bind your lawyer to maintain in the strictest confidence almost anything you reveal during your private discussions. It is particularly important to tell your lawyer facts about your case that reflect poorly on you. These will almost certainly come out if your case goes to trial.
Can I reduce my legal costs if I get more involved in my case?
Sometimes. Stay informed and ask for copies of important documents related to your case. Let your lawyer know if you are willing to help out, such as by picking up or delivering documents or by making a few telephone calls.
Criminal cases typically fall under the flat fee structure. Because a criminal case is often more intricate, pricing with contingency fees doesn't really make sense. Serious criminal cases often require multiple legal proceedings, such as the preliminary hearing, jury selection, trial, writs and appeals, and sentencing, so the process can take months.
In addition to the flat-rate fee charged by a lawyer in a criminal case, the client often has to pay additional expenses, such as:
Expert witness fees
Investigator hourly fees
Paralegal hourly fees
Legal research and/or filing fees
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$300 (excl. taxes) per hour