Paying for Legal Services
Before agreeing to have a particular lawyer represent you, be sure you understand how the lawyer you hire will bill you:
  • Hourly billing is the most common method. This, unfortunately, provides no incentive for the lawyer to work quickly and efficiently. Note that one who works fast and charges more per hour actually may cost you less than one who bills less per hour but who bills you for more hours. To make things even more complicated, there is no necessary relationship between the quality of a lawyer's services and either his hourly fee or the actual number of hours he requires to perform a given task. Also, lawyers may employee paralegal assistants and other lawyers in (and out of) the firm. Make sure you understand how this will affect your bill.
  • A flat fee sometimes is charged for drawing up certain common legal documents, such as simple wills.
  • Contingent fees are a way of paying for lawsuits that seek monetary damages. The lawyer agrees to take a prearranged portion of the judgment (usually 1/3) if the suit is successful, and nothing if it is not. In return for assuming the risk of going unpaid if the suit fails, the lawyer normally stands to earn more if successful than he would receive if paid his customary hourly fee. Read the agreement careful.
    • Often times, the lawyer will still bill you for other expenses (travel, secretarial/clerical mail, etc.) regardless of the outcome of your suit.
    • Make sure you understand your obligations

      to support the case, including devoting time and travel you may have to do until the case is ultimately resolved.
    • Finally, make sure you know what your options are to pull out of case if you are not satisfied with your lawyer's handling of it.

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