3 Things To Know About Hiring An Attorney
Depending on your situation and circumstances, the type of case or particulars, you may have to hire an attorney.
For criminal cases, an attorney will be assigned to you by the courts if you can’t afford one.
For civil cases, you can either represent yourself or get a lawyer. Legal aids and legal clinics offer free legal services for criminal and civil cases if you qualify. If you don’t qualify and you can’t obtain a pro-bono attorney, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the expenses.
How much will an attorney cost?
The amount that an attorney will cost depends on the type of legal service you need. Attorneys may have a few payments structures:
- Hourly fees – An attorney charges for every hour they spend on your case, sometimes down to the minute.
- Flat fee – The attorney charges a flat rate, regardless of how much time it takes to do the legal work.
- Contingency fee – If the attorney wins your case, the attorney takes a percentage of the money that is awarded for your case.
Contingency fees are more commonly the arrangement for cases such as personal injury or disability. Attorneys will take a percentage, usually a third, of what they get for you in your case.
Flat fee payments may include standardized paperwork and documentation, such as a will or estate plan. In this case, attorneys charge a flat rate for that specific work. Flat fees can end up costing up to a few hundred or thousands of dollars, but you’ll know what you’re paying for exactly. Hourly fees work for other cases, such as family law, and can range widely depending on the attorney you hire.
Hourly fees can range from $100-$400 an hour (or more), depending on the case. Cases, especially if they are going through the courts, can vary in how much time they require. A divorce, for example, can take years to settle, and therefore cost thousands of dollars.
“Of course, the fee structures above cover how the transaction occurs, but the value you get in return includes the peace of mind and confidence that often hiring an attorney can provide.”
Let's talk about what we're talking about.
While the above is a good start, many people still feel stuck and frustrated when it comes to hiring an attorney. The frustration stems from the fact that legal services belong to an economic category that makes it extremely difficult to evaluate even after the purchase and "consumption" of that service.
How do I know if I should hire an attorney?
and, after the fact,
How will I know if it was the right decision to hire an attorney?
Answering either of these questions requires legal expertise and experience. And, of course, if you had expertise and experience, you wouldn't need to hire an attorney. As consumers, we lack "domain" expertise and reliable information, which makes the market for legal services very difficult to trust.
If you have to be a lawyer to know if you should hire a lawyer, we have problems. As one writer said, "This pretty much sums up the frustration of all buyers of legal services everywhere ever."
Unfortunately, this dilemma prevents people from seeking legal advice early in the process of handling a legal problem, which often creates more problems in the long run. Talking to an attorney - and establishing trust - is so often the most ideal first step.
What do I need to know about hiring an attorney?
If you decide to hire an attorney, there are a few things you need to know:
- The cost – Find out how much this attorney charges and try and gauge an estimate for how much hiring them will cost you.
- The attorney/firm – Do your research. Look into the firm and the person you are hiring. Find out their success rate and how often they take cases. See if they have any disciplinary actions against them. Figure out if you feel that you can trust them with your case when you speak to them. Ask for references.
- The work style – Will they keep in touch with you throughout the case? How do they communicate? Will they be handling your case, or will it get delegated to an associate? Figuring out the type of professional relationship and communication that will occur is critical to determine if you want to work with them.
How to assess the cost of an attorney
If you are confused about a subject or unclear about a course of action – or simply want a second set of eyes – seeking legal advice is almost always a good idea. The last thing you want is to miss a vital technicality or deadline that balloons into something unmanageable. A mistake in the courts could end up costing you a lot of time, energy, and money. Your case can get delayed, or it could go against you in more severe ways. If you end up having to hire an attorney later on to fix things, backtracking is worse. Plus, you may have to pay additional or added fees.
More than time – you're paying for peace of mind
When you hire an attorney, you are enlisting a professional’s help with duty and obligation to represent your best interests. They will help you know your rights, make a plan, and move forward. In that way, you are paying for more than their time. Attorneys offer more than billable hours. You are paying for their expertise and experience. Of course, the fee structures above cover how the transaction occurs, but the value you get in return includes the peace of mind and confidence that often hiring an attorney can provide.
When it comes to legal matters, only an attorney can give you peace of mind.
How can LegalQ help?
LegalQ is an app that connects legal consumers (like us!) with attorneys on demand. Download the FREE app and then pay for a 15 or 30-minute consultation with a licensed attorney in your state and area of law expertise.
This consultation can get you on the right track for your unique case. You can figure out if you need a lawyer, the possible costs, and your options.
By: Joanna Smykowski
Thervo, 2020 Attorney Fees | Average Hourly Rates and Standard Costs.