A wide range of life events may require the services of an attorney. Whether you are getting a divorce, starting a business, suffered injuries in a car accident, need to sue an insurance company for bad faith practices, or facing a DUI charge, speaking with a lawyer is incredibly beneficial. In some cases, you may need an attorney to represent your interests. 

When considering hiring an attorney, most people are concerned about how much it will cost. Depictions of lawyers on television and in movies can make it seem like a simple conversation will result in a huge (and unfair) bill. 

These concerns are completely understandable but typically misguided. The good news is that when you hire a qualified personal injury lawyer, there is zero cost to you unless your attorney gets results in your case. 

Different Types of Lawyers

Often people don’t realize that there are many different types of lawyers. Because the legal system is so vast and complex, attorneys typically specialize in different practice areas. The type of law an attorney practices often determines how they charge their clients.

While all practicing attorneys are required to pass the bar exam, many have become highly specialized in certain areas of law. The various types of legal work lawyers do can be very diverse. 

In the past, some lawyers who handled cases of every kind were known as “generalists.” However, generalists are rare these days. Most modern attorneys are specialists in one or two areas of the law. 

Typically, modern lawyers specialize in one or two of the following areas:

If you are considering hiring a lawyer, the type of lawyer you employ will influence how they calculate the costs of their services.

Almost all types of lawyers have one thing in common. Most will offer their new clients a free initial legal consultation. This means that you can discuss your specific issue and any legal questions with the attorney at least once without being charged. 

It is important to note not all attorneys offer a free initial consultation. Lawyers who don’t offer a free consultation are usually avoiding being taken advantage of by those who only want no-cost legal advice. Because attorneys all operate differently, confirm whether or not your initial consultation will be free before you schedule a meeting.

What should you expect when you schedule an initial consultation? Be prepared to discuss your issue with the attorney. They will likely ask you a series of questions about your situation to determine if they can help in your case. If they can help, they might discuss potential courses of legal action and the costs involved. 

The depth and range of questions an attorney asks at an initial meeting will differ depending on the type of lawyer. For instance, when corporations retain legal counsel, they usually know what they need and how a lawyer can help them accomplish their goals. 

On the other hand, individuals seeking legal advice because of an injury often don’t know exactly how an attorney can help them. They just know that they are injured and need to financially recover. Because of this, a personal injury lawyer may ask more questions and spend more time with a new client in an initial consultation. 

Some of the Ways that Lawyers Charge for Their Services

After your initial legal consultation, you may decide to hire a lawyer for help with your issue. When you hire a lawyer, you enter into an agreement with them that specifies the services they will provide and how they will receive payment.

There are three standard types of legal services agreements between attorneys and their clients:

Contingency Fee Agreements

This is the type of agreement that most personal injury attorneys use. Contingency fee agreements mean that the client does not pay any money initially. Instead, the lawyer’s fee is contingent on their success in the case.

Putting it simply, your attorney doesn’t get paid unless you do! Contingency fee agreements specify the percentage of your recovery that the lawyer will keep in exchange for their services. Additionally, the agreement will spell out how the administrative costs will be covered.

Administrative costs include necessary travel costs, court filing expenses, and document reproduction. Some contingency agreements require the client to cover these costs. Others stipulate that the attorney will cover the initial expenses and be reimbursed through winnings from the case (in addition to the percentage fee).

Because of how contingency fee agreements work, personal injury lawyers are usually the most affordable kind of legal representation for clients.
 

Hourly Fee Agreements

While hourly fees are not how personal injury lawyers tend to charge, other types of attorneys still do. Hourly fees for legal services are sometimes hundreds of dollars per hour.

Usually, the attorney will require an up-front payment to secure some amount of their time. This initial payment is known as a “retainer.” The lawyer then bills the client for any additional hours they spend working on the case.

This type of payment agreement can result in very high prices for clients. Personal injury attorneys rarely rely on hourly fee agreements.

Flat Fee Agreements 

These agreements are exactly how they sound. The lawyer provides a service for a flat rate. Typically, flat fee agreements are used by attorneys who offer services that require a predictable amount of time and resources.

Some examples of this type of legal work include:

  • Uncontested Divorce Filings
  • Drafting Wills
  • Representations for First Offense DUI or Routine Criminal Charges
  • Filing Patents, Copyright Claims, or Applications for Trademarks
  • Residential Real Estate Sales and Closings

While flat fee agreements are advantageous for the client, many attorneys avoid this type of arrangement. If a case requires more time, energy, or resources than expected, the lawyer is at risk of opportunity costs and lost earnings.

No matter what type of legal issue you are having, speaking to a qualified attorney is a good place to start. As discussed above, an initial consultation can help you understand your legal options and will (in most cases) be free.