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HOW DO I PAY MY LAWYER?
HOW FREE HALF HOURS, RETAINERS, DISBURSEMENTS,
LEGAL FEES, HOURLY RATES WORK.
PAYMENT PLANS AND
TYPES OF PAYMENT EXPLAINED.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT FREE HALF HOUR CONSULTATIONS:
The much touted free half hour consultation is really nothing more than the usual meeting any two people have to decide if one will hire the other. You would not pay a car salesman for showing you a car.
Ask your self this. Why should you pay any lawyer for a first meeting where you are looking to retain a lawyer? You are doing the lawyer a favour by giving them a chance to earn your business. Why would you pay for that?
Why would you pay any lawyer to tell you what s/he can do in your case and for how much. You need that basic information to decide if you would hire the lawyer or not. The lawyer should not charge you for this type of introductory meeting.
Tell your lawyer approximately what your problem is, what you can afford, and how you can pay. Never pay in full up front. In many cases though, remember that a lawyer, like any business, will charge what they can get.
A lawyer will tailor their services to your budget. Many lawyers will accept monthly payment plans. or a similar type of instalment payment plan.
HOW DO I PAY MY LAWYER?
Most Lawyers Offer
Free Half Hour Consultations.
RETAINER: Most lawyers will request a retainer up front. This is essentially a down payment on the total fee.
NEGOTIABLE FEES: Lawyer's fees are often negotiable.
PAYMENT PLANS: Most accept payment plans you can afford.
FIXED or FLAT FEES: A flat or fixed fee is the a set amount that will be charged for routine legal work.
CONTINGENCY FEES: Some offer contingency basis
NO WIN NO PAY: Some offer no win, no pay
UNBUNDLED SERVICE: Some offer unbundled services
LEGAL AID Services
PRO BONO: Some accept pro bono cases
PREPAID LEGAL FEES: Beware. Many of these are just a scam or fraudulent.
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- Ask if the lawyer's fees are negotiable. They almost always will negotiate. If not, go somewhere else.
- SHOP AROUND.
- Lawyers have time to fill. If they do not have clients to fill that time, they still have office expenses and so they lose money.
- If they are not too busy they will bargain. Half a loaf . . .
- Smaller firms usually charge less than larger firms.
- If your case is interesting or novel or extremely lucrative, a lawyer may be willing to negotiate.
- When a firm is actively seeking more work or is new, its rate will probably be flexible or negotiable
- It may handle a case for less as a way to build its caseload.
FIXED or FLAT FEES
- A flat or fixed fee is the a set amount that will be charged for routine legal work.
- In a fixed or flat fee arrangement, the firm negotiates a set cost which covers all work related to a particular matter.
- Simple examples would be a flat fee for handling a house purchase or preparing a will.
In Canada, the law societies suggest hourly fees based on the number of years experience a lawyer has.
Lawyers are not bound or required to comply with the law society fees, and can charge what they like.
The range of fees in Ontario for example runs from $165 hour for a first year lawyer to $350 for a lawyer with 20 or more years experience.
However fees of $500, $600 or $700 an hour are common.
Lawyers also often have flat rates for each day of trial that can run into the $thousands per day.
Be sure you get a list of all the rates you might be charged for your matter, before you retain any lawyer.
LIMITED SCOPE OR UNBUNDLED LEGAL SERVICES
Your lawyer gives advice or provides assistance with just one part of a case. But you are managing your file; and making the decisions.
Examples would be document preparation, or limited representation in court.
In some cases it might be like have a lawyer coach you but you do the work.
- You will probably not be able to get a pro bono lawyer. No one is entitled to pro bono lawyers.
- No lawyer is required to offer pro bono service.
- Some lawyers accept pro bono cases if the matter is interesting or unusual.
- There are some pro bono programs often run by law students that provide free legal help.
Most lawyers will request a retainer up front. Consider it a down payment on your fees.
A retainer fee is a lump sum of money that a lawyer requires a client to pay in advance before the lawyer will begin to act on behalf of a client.
Never pay more than 20% of the total cost of your matter as a retainer. If you pay more, you lose your only leverage over the lawyer if the work is not proceeding smoothly.
This is essentially a down payment on the total fee and you can count on being billed for additional payments as your matter proceeds. You will not be paid interest on the funds the lawyer holds in trust, although, until billed the money officially still belongs to you.
The retainer fee is kept in the lawyer's trust account, and only paid to the lawyer after the client has been billed for the lawyer's services. That is a silly meaningless distinction. It just means the lawyer will send you bills regularly and transfer the trust account funds to his own account until the retainer is used up.
You can be sure the retainer will be used up entirely and you will be asked for more money or the lawyer will stop working on your case, No refunds.
PAYMENT PLANS: Most lawyers will accept payment plans you can afford.
- Most people, probably including you, simply do not have a few thousand dollars hanging around to give to a lawyer.
- Work out a monthly payment plan and be sure you make your payments. If you fall behind the lawyer will probably stop work on your file.
- Lawyers, also like you, do not work for free. They have salaries and office expenses to pay and more.
- In a contingency basis fee deal, you pay nothing up front and the lawyer gets paid by taking a percentage of whatever is recovered.
- Injury lawyers, workers’ compensation lawyers or disability lawyers commonly offer contingency fees.
- Most lawyers will not accept a contingency arrangement unless they are sure that the matter will settle out of court.
- If a lawyer offers you a contingency deal, you can probably haggle over the fees as the lawyer thinks s/he will win and wants your case.
NO WIN NO PAY:
- Some lawyers offer no win, no pay for traffic ticket cases.
- Be sure you understand what they consider to be a "win." You think winning means getting your ticket or case dismissed, but your lawyer may say winning means getting the points or fine reduced.
BEWARE OF SO CALLED
PRE PAID LEGAL PLANS
Prepaid legal services are scams. You pay a monthly fee for a short consultation that a lawyer usually provides for free.
HOW DO I PAY MY LAWYER? PAYMENT PLANS AND TYPES OF PAYMENT EXPLAINED
What you should know about free half hour consultations, retainer, negotiable fees, payment plans, fixed or flat fees, hourly fees, contingency fees, no win no pay, unbundled service, legal aid. pro bono, and prepaid legal fees.