Lawyer Fees: The Basics You Need to Know

It’s always nice to understand what your lawyer will be charging you before he or she takes on your case, and the fee structure can vary quite significantly depending on the type of case you’re dealing with. If you need help understanding lawyer fees and how they work, here are some basics that you should know.

How to Choose a Lawyer


When you’re starting a new business, you need someone on your side who can help you draft legal documents, review and revise contracts, represent you in disputes with investors or partners, and be an expert source of information on corporate laws and regulations.

If that doesn’t describe your typical attorney at a law firm, then it might be time to consider alternative legal service providers. Here’s everything you need to know about choosing a lawyer.

Do lawyer fees matter?


Lawyers might charge different fees based on their hourly rate or a flat fee. For example, an hourly rate can be calculated as $300 per hour, which means that if you’re only seeking advice on a particular issue and it takes one hour of legal counsel, you’ll pay $300.

When will I pay my lawyer?


First, you will pay your lawyer when you hire him or her. To determine how much to budget for legal fees, ask other lawyers in your area about their billing practices. Your attorney will explain how he or she intends to charge for his or her services. Understanding those terms is a matter of fairness, as well as understanding what you can expect from your attorney.

How much should I expect my lawyer fees to be?


This is one of those questions where there is no easy answer. That’s because every lawyer’s fees are different and every type of case has its own price tag. A general idea of how much a lawyer will cost you can be found in your state’s bar association website, but that can be a rough estimate at best.

Is it possible to get a reduced rate from my lawyer?


Yes, depending on your financial situation and other extenuating circumstances. For example, you may qualify for reduced fees if you’re a low-income earner, or if your case involves a matter of public interest.

Your attorney may also be willing to work with you on an hourly rate if you’re cash-strapped. Talk it over with him or her when negotiating your retainer agreement. It never hurts to ask! When in doubt, call a lawyer referral service for guidance.

What if I change my mind about wanting a lawyer?


If you’re thinking about using a lawyer and want help in selecting one, there are many services available. Most law firms will provide free initial consultations where you can find out more about their services.

These consultations give you an opportunity to meet with different lawyers and ask them questions about how they work, how much they charge, and whether or not they feel like a good fit for your case.

I think my lawyer may have been overpaid. Can I get the excess amount back?


Yes and no. Like many professions, lawyers in California are limited by law on how much they can charge for their services. So if your lawyer bills you $5000 for a case, but it’s only worth $1000, you can dispute that overpayment with your lawyer. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that they will give you back any of that money since they’ve already done all of the work required to complete your case.

What if my lawyer charges me more than our agreement stated?


If you haven’t signed a contract with your lawyer, it is in your best interest to have one created and signed. All too often, lawyers overcharge their clients because they are worried about not being able to recover some of their costs if their client doesn’t pay them back.

This can be avoided by having a contract set up that states exactly what fees will be charged for certain services. Be sure you get that contract in writing and signed before any work starts.

What happens if my lawyer doesn’t finish working on my case as quickly as we agreed?


When you hire a lawyer, you are entering into a business relationship. As in any business relationship, you and your lawyer will have an agreement setting out what your attorney will do for you and how much he or she will charge.