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How Do I Pay? Three Fee Structures to Suit Your Legal Needs

Updated: Aug 11, 2021

A common question for the team at Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren is “How much is this going to cost?” Joe Cargile, partner at WBW, provides the details of the types of fee structures offered at the firm.

1. The Flat Fee Agreement

Most common for criminal cases, bankruptcy, probate, and real estate matters, in a flat fee agreement, a fixed amount is quoted to the client for handling the case or real estate closing. The fee is based on how much time the firm estimates the case will take, often referred to as billable hours.

Also considered when issuing a flat fee is the level of expertise required to achieve desired results.

“For example, we have unique resources for the types of cases that our firm handles often or on a regular basis,” says Cargile. “Your flat fee will reflect the expertise needed to achieve success with your case.”

Additional costs associated with the case, which are called non-representation fees, may include filing fees and travel. These costs are billed separately.

2. The Retainer Fee Agreement

This type of fee structure is most common for general litigation, domestic matters, and contract disputes, and is computed based on an hourly estimate. In a scenario where a retainer fee is charged, the legal team does not know the exact amount of time needed, but they do expect the dispute to be ongoing over a longer period.

Cargile explains, “The client will put funds down in the beginning – let’s say $1,000 – and then be billed by the hour based on the work completed.”

Skill level is also a consideration when determining how billable hours are charged. For instance, the billable rate for a paralegal is lower than that of an attorney. This way, you aren’t paying the higher attorney rate for clerical tasks completed by another member of the team.

3. Contingency Fee Agreement

A contingency fee structure is used with cases where settlement compensation is expected, such as workers’ compensation, personal injury, or other claims where insurance is involved.

In this situation, the client doesn’t pay anything out of pocket. When the case is resolved, the money received from a judgment or settlement is divided between the client and law firm based on a percentage agreed upon up front.

“Typically, the law firm gets 25% to 40% depending on the type of case,” says Cargile.

In addition to the settlement percentage, the client does have to reimburse the lawyer for real costs (but not time) incurred. These fees are also subtracted from the client portion of the settlement amount.

“For example, the cost of depositions, court reporter fees, transcript fees, travel costs, and hiring of experts like nurses must be covered from the client portion of the settlement,” Cargile explains.

On the other hand, if the client does not receive settlement compensation, the legal team doesn’t get paid and the client is not responsible for payment to the firm either.

The legal matter you are seeking expert advice for will fit into one of these three fee categories, and the WBW team is ready to provide you with a free consultation to help determine which approach is best for you. Call us today at (229) 226-2161.

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