One of the first questions I get when speaking with someone new is, “How much does it cost?”. I’ll take some time to go over how attorney payment typically works.
There are two main ways attorneys can structure payment for their services: contingency fee or retainer based pricing.
A contingency fee is different from an hourly agreement. In a contingency fee, the client never has to pay the attorney anything. The client will never write the attorney a check. The attorney on a contingency fee is paid through the gross amount of the recovery that is obtained.
In other words, the attorney will only receive any money when they are successful. Typically, the contingency fee agreement is if the case is settled without having to file a lawsuit, the attorney would receive one third, plus the cost he’s had to front in pursuing that litigation, things like court cost, deposition fees, expert fees. Attorneys taking cases on contingency fee do go out of pocket for these costs at a risk. This is why you will often see attorneys
The client never has to pay out of pocket and the rate is very straightforward. Typically, the percentage rate increases to 40% if a lawsuit does have to be filed.
Retainer based pricing, which is typical in business litigation, is when the client will put up an agreed dollar amount as a retainer, and the funds will go into a client trust account, and it’ll be in there when they need to use it. Typically, a retainer is going to be for a couple thousand dollars.
For my clients that operate on a retainer basis, I bill them an hourly rate for my services and give them an invoice each month. At the end of that month, the client has the option to either pay the invoice, or I can take it out of the retainer.
If I take it out of the retainer, that’s fine, no big deal. But once the retainer gets to be zero, the client needs to replenish the retainer or I have to withdraw as counsel.
The good thing about my retainer agreement is the retainers are refundable. You might have seen other firms where the retainer is just used as a down payment, and that’s something I will never do.
Whatever money is left over in the client’s trust account after the case, the client gets it back. Sometimes, it ends up being that they’ll put up the retainer and only end up spending about half that.
What I typically do
I am open to doing either way for any type of case. Typically for personal injury cases, insurance disputes, and things of that nature, the client would prefer to do it on a contingency fee basis.
In most of my business litigation cases, the client would typically prefer to setup a retainer and pay by the hour.
There are hybrids of both of these payment models that I am open to doing with clients based on their unique situation. My focus is on working with my clients to figuring out which way works the best for them.