Ask the attorney how fees are charged. Be familiar with the terms below. The definitions below are general. Ask the attorney for specific information pertaining to the way he or she bills, including when payment is due.
- Retainer: In many instances, a retainer is requested. It is considered a “down payment” on legal services the attorney will provide. Legal fees will be subtracted until the retainer is used up, at which time you may be asked for another retainer, or you may be billed on an hourly basis.
- Fixed Fee: Some simple matters, such as preparing a simple will or uncontested divorce, may be billed at a fixed rate.
- Hourly Fee: Hourly rates vary from lawyer to lawyer.
- Contingency: This is commonly used in personal injury, medical malpractice, workers’ compensation, and other cases involving law suits for money. It means that if you win the case or if it settles before going to trial, you will pay the attorney a certain percentage of the money you receive.
Do they offer payment options?
- Ask whether the attorney will accept a payment plan so you can pay over time.
- Ask the attorney what type of payment he or she will accept: credit cards (and what types), check, money order, or cash.
- Ask the attorney to provide an estimate of how long it will take to complete your case.
- Ask about any additional costs. For example, you are likely to be billed separately for items such as emails, faxes, copies, postage, filing fees, expert witnesses, travel expenses, etc.
- Request a written fee agreement.