There are several attorney fee schemes, which are often determined by the sort of counsel you require, such as wrongful termination. The following are summaries of many of the most typical ways in which lawyers get compensated for their services.
Each attorney charges an hourly fee: a flat rate for each hour of work performed in hourly fee arrangements. These hourly charges vary significantly by city and by the lawyer, but the hourly rates often vary from a few hundred to several hundred dollars or more.
If you prefer to have a single, isolated service, then an hourly price model may be the best fit for you, so if you only want a lawyer to check through a severance agreement, you may also anticipate being paid for an hourly cost for that quick meeting.
The term “unbundling” of services is a new trend in legal fee structures. Historically, customers frequently retained an attorney “on retainer” to offer services as needed. This was more common among commercial clients, while an individual may occasionally retain the services of a lawyer to aid with all aspects of an issue, such as wrongful termination. For example, the client may have asked assistance appealing a denied unemployment insurance claim or settling a disagreement with another administrative body, as well as investigating prospective legal claims and launching litigation.
You may employ a lawyer for a single service; for instance, you may retain a lawyer to file a claim for back pay with your state’s labor commissioner without employing the lawyer for any other termination-related services. If you need extra services then you have the option to hire a different lawyer or if you want to broaden the services of the original lawyer this will be under a new fee agreement if the lawyer is going to take on the additional work. Unbundled services are often charged on an hourly basis by lawyers.
Fees on a Contingent Basis
If your case is about to go into litigation, there are lawyers who agree to be paid on a contingent basis, either with or without a retainer. Essentially, a contingent fee is a portion of your recovery, so if you win the case, the lawyer receives a fee, but, the lawyer is not compensated if you do not get a monetary award or settlement.
The most often used contingency agreements are percentages of either a post-trial judgment of damages or a pre-trial settlement sum. As with hourly costs, the proportion charged by a lawyer varies by area. However, it is extremely typical to charge a contingency fee equal to one-third of any pretrial recovery. Frequently, the lawyer’s share increases after a trial date are scheduled or some other indicator of the start of litigation is established. The reason for the rise is that an attorney’s hours significantly increase when litigation is ready to commence.
But in most cases, the lawyer is going to need a retainer or a lump-sum payment of the fees at the start of the contingency agreement, which makes this the attorney’s “downside” protection or a small fee for accepting the case on a contingent basis.
Not only contingent fee retainers are levied, but also other types of retainer fees. This is mostly because a lawyer may want a retainer that is “refundable” thereby indicating that the money is going to be credited to you and the retainer amount will be reduced from the contingent fee of the lawyer in case you win or you settle. Also, for most cases, a lawyer will seek a retainer in place of hourly rates and then pull out just the retainer fees, giving you an explanation of the amount deducted and the balance remaining. If at the completion of the lawyer’s representation there is still money left, the remaining amount will be repaid to you.
On the other hand, there are instances where the lawyer may request a “cost retainer” in order to cover the non-fee-based expenses like filing fees, deposition fees, and expert witness fees. Generally, the lawyer will take funds from the fund as necessary to cover unforeseen expenditures, providing you with an accounting of the funds removed and the balance left in the account.
Can You Agree to a Reduced Fee?
While you may have never employed a lawyer, you have almost certainly engaged other service providers. A lawyer is merely a professional you employ to perform a task, and you very certainly have the option of negotiating the lawyer’s rates. If the lawyer refuses to bargain and is adamant about a certain price structure, you can choose whether to accept it or shop around.
If you want to determine which of these pricing structures is best, then you must conduct some due diligence by assessing your losses and determining the best strategy for maximizing your prospective outcome given the conditions.
What are your termination-related losses, often known as damages? These often include missed wages, diminished benefits, higher medical bills, and potentially mental suffering. The period of unemployment from the time you are or is expected to be rehired at your previous rate of pay is called “lost pay.” Benefits include medical insurance, bonuses, stock options, and 401K or match programs, among others. Calculate your anticipated losses in each category.
If you have a solid case and substantial damages, you are in a stronger position to negotiate a contingency fee agreement, since the lawyer may receive a share of any recovery. If your case is solid but your damages are minimal (maybe you promptly got a new job at a greater rate of pay), you and your lawyer may choose to consider another option. For instance, some attorneys may accept specific cases on a combined lower hourly fee/contingent fee basis. You would pay a low hourly cost for services performed and the lawyer would receive a tiny portion of any money collected on your behalf. Alternatively, you may decide that an unbundled service strategy is the appropriate course of action and retain the lawyer to defend you in a labor commissioner process for a fixed cost.
Other Incidental Costs
Another consideration is cost: the non-attorney fees mentioned above. These vary significantly depending on the course of action taken. If you engage a lawyer to draft a letter requesting a pre-trial settlement, you will incur minimal or no charges. If you and your attorney file a case, the fees associated with the will reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. You will very certainly be responsible for all or a portion of these expenditures as they accrue.