Legal Fee Primer: What to Pay for Legal Advice

If you’re in need of legal advice, you should educate yourself as much as possible as to what you can expect from your lawyer. This is especially true of legal fees. A lawyer sets his or her fees based on several factors, including: location, experience and field of expertise. Here is what you should know about legal fees.

 

The initial consultation is typically free. Of course, there are some lawyers who charge for initial consultations. As a general rule, these lawyers should be avoided. An initial consultation often serves as much purpose for a lawyer as it does for his or her client. The lawyer needs to gather facts to determine whether you have a viable case that the law firm would be interesting in taking on. The lawyer will not necessarily dispense legal advice at an initial consultation; he or she may simply lay out the firm’s policies on legal fees and other relevant matters. Unless, as a client, you make clear that you want legal advice at your initial consultation, you should not be charged for that visit. Instead, the lawyer should present you with a retainer agreement that expressly states when and how much you will be charged for legal fees and other expenses.

 

Personal injury cases are always offered on a contingency fee basis. If you’ve been injured in an accident, you do not need to call the law firm advertising on television that it receives no payment unless you receive monetary damages. That is true of all personal injury lawyers, and any lawyer that uses that as a main selling point probably doesn’t have much else to sell. Typically, personal injury lawyers receive one-third of any verdict or settlement that is ultimately reached in your case. Most personal injury lawyers front your expenses and are only paid back if they successfully resolve your case. Beware any lawyer who asks you to pay for your own expenses. That lawyer may not be able to afford to front your expenses or may not believe you have a particularly viable case. Either way, he or she is probably not very good.

 

Hourly legal fees vary widely. Rates for a particular attorney can range anywhere from $50 to more than $1,000 per hour. These legal fees should be based mainly on a lawyer’s experience and success rates. The more experience an attorney has, the more he or she will generally bill in legal fees. Another factor to be taken into consideration is the lawyer’s location. A lawyer in New York City is likely to charge far more than a lawyer in Center Valley, Penn. Cost of living in your particular area must be taken into account. Lawyers in large cities typically have higher overhead costs than lawyers in rural towns. Likewise, a lawyer who specializes in a complex area of the law may charge more for his or her services than a lawyer who maintains a general practice. Know your lawyer’s qualifications before you enter into any retainer agreement. When a retainer agreement is presented to you, read it carefully and do not be afraid to ask any questions that come to mind.

Jack Oceano
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