When you are hiring an attorney, it can be difficult to wade through legal terms so you can ensure you find the attorney that is right for you. One term you may have noticed is contingency, as well as its opposite, non-contingency. How do these terms apply to your case?
What Is a Contingency Case?
Attorneys may work on a contingency basis, which means that you will not have to pay up front for the attorney’s time. Instead, you will enter into a contingency fee arrangement, in which the attorney will agree that no upfront fee is necessary and you will agree to give the attorney a certain percentage of any settlement or judgment. If the case is unsuccessful and you do not win, you do not owe the attorney a fee.
Overall, contingency cases can allow access to attorney services for clients who may not otherwise be able to afford them. Clients can pay with a portion of the results of the case, while the attorney assumes some risk that they will not win the case. However, some attorneys decline certain cases they feel may not prove worth the risk.
Some attorneys work on a contingency basis regarding the fees for the time spent on the case, but will require the client to pay for other related expenses. Expenses may include filing fees, expert testimony fees, or medical expenses. This partial contingency basis may still allow for greater access to attorney services for some clients.
Often, attorneys in the personal injury, workers’ compensation, property damage, and class action lawsuit areas will work on a contingency basis. Such cases have the potential for significant settlements, making the attorney’s time well spent for a percentage of the settlement.
Many people feel that working on a contingency basis provides an attorney with extra incentive to pursue a fair settlement amount for the client. However, a good attorney will work hard for a client regardless of compensation style.
What Is a Non-Contingency Case?
Most attorneys take cases primarily on a non-contingency basis. The client hires the attorney to act as their legal advocate for the purposes of the case. The client pays the attorney outright, either on an hourly basis or a flat fee to provide representation.
Often, attorneys who work on a non-contingency basis will charge clients a retainer, essentially a deposit that guarantees a certain number of hours of the attorney’s time working on the case. If the case exceeds that number of hours, the attorney will charge additional fees. Attorneys often charge other fees, such as filing fees and expert fees in addition to the hourly rate.
Attorneys working on family law, real estate, criminal or bankruptcy and other business cases typically charge a retainer and work on a non-contingency basis. These cases do not involve awards or settlements the client can draw from to pay attorney fees. However, if you win your case, the opposing side may pay court costs and attorney fees for you.
How Much Do Attorneys Cost?
Contingency fees typically comprise about one-third of the settlement amount. Also, keep in mind that filing fees, discovery costs, and overhead fees typically cost hundreds of dollars each. Expert witness fees can reach several thousands of dollars or as much as your attorney himself. Non-contingency attorney fees can begin at $250 per hour. All of these fees depend on your individual case – particularly its complexities and the degree of risk to the attorney – as well as the specifics of the fees in your area.
Always consult with an attorney to get an idea of how he or she would handle the fees related to your case. The consultation phase is crucial so that you can understand how fees will be determined.