March 14, 2023
How much does it cost to hire an attorney? It is common to need a lawyer at some point in your life, for various reasons whether it's for a family law matter like adoption or divorce, to draft up a contract, or for a car accident personal injury claim. For many people, the decision to hire someone to perform legal services depends on how much it costs. Let's explore how much an attorney costs.
Lawyers in Texas must follow rules of professional conduct and cannot charge fees that are illegal or unconscionable. It may be helpful to speak with a few law firms to see how different lawyers and firms handle legal fees and what you can expect to pay. A lawyer's fee agreement should cover two things:
Legal fees: How the lawyers (and other professionals) are paid for their time representing you. This may be hourly, fixed-fee, or a percentage of a settlement (contingency fees).
Costs and expenses: Things like court filing fees and court reporter fees are different from hourly fees. Because these can add up quickly, it is always a good idea to speak with a potential lawyer about what other fees to expect.
An hourly fee or an hourly rate is a very common cost structure for a lawyer. This fee structure is used by lawyers in nearly all areas of law - with a few exceptions like plaintiff personal injury cases. When a law firm charges an hourly fee, lawyers bill for the amount of time spent, usually in six-minute increments. Paralegal fees are usually billed hourly, at a lower rate than the licensed attorney.
How much does a lawyer charge per hour? The average hourly rate of an attorney can vary, and lawyers consider a number of factors when setting their fees. One less attractive thing about hourly fees is it is not possible to determine the final cost of hiring a lawyer to handle your matter. It can be stressful for clients to be spending a large amount of money on legal representation for a complex criminal case and having no idea how much it will ultimately cost.
A flat fee rate is an alternative fee arrangement (AFA) that is exactly what it sounds like: a client is given a prearranged total for legal work. A flat fee arrangement is common in predictable legal services that involve document preparation or forms, such as estate planning, contract drafting, or bankruptcy preparation. Flat fees can be one-time or monthly, depending on the scope of the matter.
Flat fee rates benefit clients and attorneys - the client knows how much their legal fees will cost, and an attorney is motivated to work efficiently to resolve the legal issue.
A contingency fee agreement is very common in an accident case, as well as insurance claims and medical malpractice lawsuits pursuing a monetary award for a client. The term "contingency fee" means the payment of a legal fee is contingent on the personal injury attorney actually winning the case. There are no retainer fees or hourly fees, and the lawyers are paid a percentage of the money recovered, usually between 25-50% (33% is common). The actual percentage may change based on when money is recovered (settling before trial may be a smaller percentage than going to trial). A written contingency fee agreement is required - and will establish the specific terms of the agreement.
American Bar Association professional conduct rules do not allow attorneys to use contingency fees in divorce cases or criminal cases.
Common for a family law attorney, retainers are essentially deposits to aid in the cash flow requirements of law firms. Remember, your law firm is a small business and needs to cover payroll and expenses. Although a retainer is a fixed amount required upfront, the cost of a retainer is not a fixed amount for handling a case.
Like the various methods of billing for legal services, the cost of a consultation with a lawyer will vary too. Many attorneys offer free consultations to meet with potential clients - this can allow both sides to determine if the legal relationship is a good fit. The benefit of a free consultation is the absence of obligation or pressure - the potential client has the freedom to "shop" around for a lawyer that works for them.
Other attorneys who bill hourly will charge a flat fee for a consultation (one hour of time at their hourly rate is common). With contingency fee matters, a consultation is typically always free.
Brooks & Radchenko offers a free consultation for both personal injury and family law matters. We know that much is at stake and these matters, and will use our time together to evaluate your potential case and see if an experienced attorney at our firm can help.
Unless you are hiring a lawyer for a very specific task where a flat fee agreement is offered, it is often difficult to predict how much you will pay for your representation. This can be frustrating, although lawyers can often give an idea of the factors that will influence the final cost of your representation. The fee agreement should reflect the value the client receives. Below are some of the factors that influence the cost of hiring your lawyer:
Complex cases require a large amount of your lawyer's time. In a personal injury case where the damages awarded are anticipated to be high, such as dog bites cases, the investment of time can be worth it for the personal injury lawyers, with no risk to the client. However, in complex criminal defense matters, divorce cases, or contested child custody battles, the hours of time your lawyer spends working on your case will lead to a high bill for you as the client.
Experience in the legal profession absolutely plays a role in lawyer pricing. When your future is at stake (whether you are facing a criminal charge, seeking compensation for a serious injury, or fighting for a fair outcome in a divorce) you will want an experienced lawyer with proven results over a lawyer who just passed the bar. Lawyers with a long history of successful outcomes may charge more hourly, because they can.
It is common for lawyers in big cities to be more expensive than lawyers in small times. Although this is in line with other professional services where the office space rents are higher in expensive downtown areas, lawyers in big cities often have more experience and there is simply more demand for their services.
Some cases are very hands-off - and very little communication is required between the client and the law office. In a personal injury claim, such as a claim after being injured in a DUI accident, you may have frequent status updates on your recovery.
If your legal matter is not a personal injury case where you have a contingency fee agreement, you will likely be paying to communicate with your lawyer and paralegal. Your emails, texts, and phone calls for status updates will be billed.
The cost of a lawyer varies from state to state, and city to city. The table below illustrates the average costs of lawyer fees by state.
You have many choices in hiring a lawyer. In a large metro area like Dallas/Fort Worth, finding a good lawyer can be overwhelming. Although cost is a factor, it is not just about the cost. Following are things to consider when looking for a lawyer:
When you are determining how to choose an attorney, experience should be at the top of your list. Law is a very broad field. Drafting living trusts, for example, doesn’t qualify your attorney to handle a personal injury case. You need a lawyer who knows all the insurance company tricks, who has proven their ability to win in court, and who knows all the local players, including the judges.
When deciding how to choose an attorney for personal injury, you don’t want to hire an attorney with a serious disciplinary record. Every Texas attorney must be a member of the State Bar of Texas to practice law in-state. You can search the State Bar of Texas website to view the disciplinary record (if any) of any Texas-qualified lawyer.
Sometimes judges will give out-of-state attorneys special permission to handle a case in Texas. In that case, look to the attorney’s home state bar association website for their disciplinary record.
A personal injury lawyer’s reputation comprises at least two dimensions:
Among these two, the letter is the most important. The Internet is a great resource for checking a lawyer’s reputation among both clients and peers. It is also a wonderful resource for teaching you how to choose an injury attorney.
A personal injury lawyer’s track record in court is important, even if you plan to settle your claim out of court (as most claimants do). The reason is that the opposing party has no motivation to negotiate with you unless they fear you will defeat them in court otherwise. Their track record at the bargaining table is essential, too, of course.
One of the more underrated factors in the art of how to choose a personal injury attorney is resources. To resolve a complex personal injury case, for example after a car accident, something more than just an excellent lawyer is required. Your lawyer needs access to a network of:
An experienced lawyer will have many experts of various sorts in their network. Your lawyer will also need the time and energy to handle your case. A conscientious lawyer knows how to avoid “biting off more than they can chew” with their caseload.
If you have suffered a serious injury, one problem you don’t need is a personal injury lawyer who makes you come to their office to meet them. Your attorney should meet you in the hospital, at home, or wherever you need to meet. A good personal injury lawyer will take care of your case as much as possible while you focus on regaining your health.
Knowledge of the law is not enough. Good negotiation skills or breathtaking courtroom oratory are not enough either. Your lawyer needs the ability to communicate with you one-on-one. They must explain complex legal matters in simple terms and explain how they apply to your case. They should keep you updated at all times and be ready to answer your questions, so you can feel comfortable and confident going forward.
It’s crucial that you feel comfortable and secure with your attorney. You will need to discuss the details of your case, some of which could be personal, and you will most likely feel vulnerable doing so. For this reason, having a good rapport and feeling at ease with your attorney is a necessity, as well as feeling confident in their ability to properly defend you.
Just about any personal injury lawyer will offer you a free initial consultation. How do you make the most of this opportunity? What questions should you ask an attorney? It’s not obvious which questions to ask an attorney. Nevertheless, asking the right questions is critical to choosing the right personal injury lawyer. Following are some of the questions you might ask an attorney at the initial consultation:
There are many other questions you might ask a lawyer during an initial consultation.
Having a good lawyer costs money - whether upfront or a percentage of your settlement. Hiring a qualified lawyer can be expensive, but it's important to consider the possible cost of not having an experienced attorney represent you. Depending on the nature of your legal issue, not hiring a lawyer, or not having a qualified lawyer, could cost you a lot of money when you have to do more work later, lose out on a fair settlement, or have your case dismissed due to not following rules of civil procedure.
It does not provide legal advice. The scenarios described in this website are intended to demonstrate legal principles involved with representation in the type of case described. Any current or former clients quoted or specifically identified in these materials have reviewed the firm on a third-party website or platform, such as Google, without compensation. Every legal case is different. Specific past results are not indicative of specific future results. Any information contained herein pertaining to experience or familiarity with particular courts or government agencies should not be construed as an ability or willingness to exert improper influence over the legal system. All services described in these materials and provided by Family Law of North Texas, LLC, and its attorneys, are only performed in compliance with all applicable laws and the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct.