Billing rates for lawyers can drastically change depending on the case and the lawyer. What lawyers bill their clients for can be pretty surprising, not to mention expensive. Even a simple copy of a few legal documents can cost a dollar per page! Lawyers bill and charge their clients for their legal services and your case’s entire legal team. Although it’s hard to get an exact estimate on what you’ll be charged for, you can understand how you’ll be charged for your lawyer’s legal services.
In this article, you’ll find resources that’ll answer some of the most common questions about how the lawyer’s bill and charge their clients. Here, you’ll find information on:
- Average legal fee rates in 2020
- Why lawyers charge so much
- What fees lawyers can bill their clients for
- How to negotiate or dispute fees with your lawyer
- Where to find legal help
This article does not have information on what to do if you cannot afford a lawyer. For more information on getting legal help even if you can’t afford it, read these resources:
- What To Do If You Need A Divorce Lawyer But Can’t Afford One
- How To Get Legal Help If You Can’t Afford A Custody Lawyer
Legal Fee Rates In 2020
Most attorneys in 2020 charge anywhere between $100 to $300 an hour. On average, most qualified lawyers for a more complex case like a contested divorce will charge $225 an hour. This can change depending on your lawyer’s qualifications and experience.
Here are some average rates for popular cases lawyers handle.
|Felony||$3,500 or more|
|Prenup||$500 to $1,500|
|Estate plan||$300 to $20,000|
|Uncontested divorce||$700 to $1,500|
|Contested divorce||$5,000 or more|
|Custody battles||$5,000 or more|
Why Do Lawyers Charge So Much?
Your lawyer’s bill can depend on several things. This includes the time and extent of your problem, your lawyer’s experience, investigation costs, and sometimes the result. Most cases will have a team of legal professionals rather than just one lawyer. In addition to paying for the entire legal team’s services, there are also overhead costs to consider.
The best way to understand why your lawyer’s bill is so high is to ask for an itemized list of legal expenses. This will show you what you’re being charged for and why. For instance, your lawyer might be working closely with another on your case, but this lawyer may charge more for their services because they have more experience. This means that you will have two separate hourly rates associated with your lawyer’s bill. Remember to discuss how you’re being billed with your lawyer upon consultation.
In addition to varying hourly fees of your lawyer’s team, your lawyer’s bill will also include the cost of research and preparation. This can include, but is not limited to:
- A private investigator
- An expert witness’ time
- Traveling expenses
- Court fees
It’s important for you to understand where all your expenses are coming from. Clients can feel cheated out by lawyers who hide this kind of information. Of course, there will be dishonest lawyers, but the right ones will always be honest about the estimated costs upon consultation.
What Lawyers Can Bill Their Clients For
Lawyers can bill their clients on anything associated with the case. There are various fees, flat rates, and hourly costs that could determine what you’re billed for. Depending on how extensive your case is, you may not every single one of these fees.
On your lawyer’s bill, you may find a number of various costs associated with your case’s background research. This can include, but is not limited to:
- Advice via phone, email, or in-person
- Filing Fees
- Traveling expenses
Photocopies and documentation can also have multiple fees, especially if you need official copies of documents. Many of the items on this list are a paralegal’s research duties, so their hourly fee will differ.
Many lawyers will give a free initial consultation, but not all do. Others can charge by a flat rate or an hourly fee. When meeting with your lawyer upon consultation, be sure to discuss how you will be charged. Come prepared with all the information on your case, but don’t get too caught up talking about every detail.
What’s most important about your consultation is knowing what questions to ask your lawyer. Your lawyer may also ask you some questions about yourself and the case during this time. This consultation should help you determine if the lawyer is the right fit for you.
My Case Helper works with qualified lawyers across the country. For free legal advice, or to find a lawyer near you, call the number at the top of your screen. Be sure to also read:
- 10 Questions To Ask A Divorce Lawyer Before Hiring Them
- 9 Questions To Ask A DUI Lawyer Before Hiring Them
- 8 Questions To Ask An Employment Lawyer Before Hiring Them
This legal fee is based on a predetermined percentage of your case’s winnings. Contingency fees are common and typical for personal injury cases. For most personal injury lawyers or civil lawsuit cases, lawyers may work solely off of contingency fees alone. Meaning, if your case is not won, your lawyer will not be paid.
Contingency fees are normally only a percentage of your winnings, judgment, or damages. Contingencies are normally only about 30% of your winnings. Be sure to discuss with your lawyer how much they normally take in contingencies and what they’ll charge you.
Contingency fees are normally only reserved for personal injury, tort, and civil cases. Do not hire a lawyer who offers to be paid by contingencies instead of regular fees for separation matters, if you’re being sued, or seeking general advice on a business.
Flat fees are normally offered if the case is relatively simple such as a prenup. These rates can still change based on how extensive the case is. For example, even a simple prenup can cost between $700 to $1,000. Flat fees are common in some of the following cases:
- Legal contracts
- Uncontested divorces
- Wills, estate, and trust building
This is the most common way a layer will bill you for their services. Rates in 2020 can range from $100 an hour to $300 an hour. This can change depending on where our lawyer is from, what their experience is, and what your case entails.
Since lawyers and paralegals all charge different rates depending on their seniority and experience, you should ask upon consultation who will be working on your case. If there are multiple members of your legal team, ask to have each person’s hourly rate itemized on your lawyer’s bill.
If a lawyer refers you to another attorney, the lawyer may ask for a referral fee. Referral fees are barred in many cases unless they meet specific criteria. Similarly to other fees, you must agree to a reasonable referral fee before a lawyer can charge you.
If you feel that the fee is unreasonable, or that you shouldn’t be charged, check with your local or state bar association for more information. You do not have to go to the referred lawyer if you feel the fee is inappropriate.
Retainer fees can be thought of as a “down payment,” or initial payment towards your bill. This amount is deducted from your lawyer’s bill after the case is over. Retainers also allow you to have your lawyer’s on-call attention during an agreed duration of service.
Depending on your case and your lawyer, retainer fees can cost anywhere between $2,000 to $100,000. Be sure to discuss with your lawyer what conditions the retainer fee includes.
This fee is common for probate, bankruptcy, or other cases set by a statute. Ask your lawyer whether or not your case will have a statutory fee.
Can You Negotiate Or Dispute Fees?
If you haven’t signed a billing agreement with your lawyer, be sure to have a clear understanding of how you will be charged. If you do not agree or do not understand part of your agreement, bring it up with your lawyer. Although you might be able to negotiate some expenses with your lawyer, there are set expenses and court fees you may not be able to get out of.
Some lawyers can be flexible with various fees, especially if you can’t afford their services but really need them. Lawyers can also allow you to print your own legal documents, or offer other options to save money on your legal fees. There are several options if you cannot afford a lawyer or ways for you to lower your lawyer’s bill, such as:
- A limited scope retainer
- Offering legal advice rather than full representation
- Printing your own documents
To get free legal advice or to find a lawyer near you today to answer all your questions on what your lawyer can bill their clients for, call My Case Helper to speak with one of our Premier Partners today.