About Fee Agreements And Costs
This week’s blogs feature topics related to legal fees. In April 2020, the national average cost of attorney’s fees where an hourly rate is charged is $225 per hour. The minimum cost is $100, and the maximum is $1,000. The average range is from $100 to $300. The type of fee arrangement that an attorney utilizes is often based on the type of legal issues that a client presents for resolution.
Attorneys must base their fees on a clearly communicated and memorialized fee agreement negotiated at the beginning of their representation with clients. Regardless of whatever a local state bar’s rules may require or suggest as to oral or unwritten fee arrangements, it is recommended that all fee agreements with clients reduced to some written description of the services to be rendered and their cost. Some states only require contingent fee agreements or fee agreements requested by clients to be in writing.
Any fee agreement should include the following provisions:
- the scope of the attorney’s representation;
- the rights, responsibilities, and expectations (including specifically mentioning that there is no guarantee of a specific result) of both the attorney and the client;
- recitation of fees and costs; and
- the required method of payment.
A written agreement signed by both attorney and client empowers the client and makes him or her a more active participant in the resolution of his or her legal matter. If any disagreements or other issues arise after the fact about any fees that the client is charged, the fee agreement provides a mechanism for fairly resolving disputes according to the parties’ original intentions and expectations. Attorneys should never place themselves in a position where it is “their word against the word of the client.” This is not a recommended or practical business practice.
Legal matters not only demand the time of attorneys, paralegals, and secretaries to accomplish the desired result, they also require the expenditure of certain hard costs that attorneys incur during the preparation and pursuit of a client’s case. These expenses are commonly paid by the attorney and then billed back to the client, and are in addition to any fees for the attorneys’ services.
Typical expenses of a case include:
- Service of process fees. These are fees for the sheriff serving the defendants of a lawsuit.
- Filing fees. Courts require filing fees that differ based on the court procedure. There is typically a larger filing fee to file a complaint and initiate a case whereas there may be no cost to file a simple motion.
- Courier fees. These fees are for any documents delivered by courier.
- Copies. Many firms track the number of copies and charge the client a cost per page. Some cases may require the photocopying and sorting of a large number of documents.
- Postage. Standard postage costs are commonly charged to clients.
- Long-distance telephone charges. Long-distance telephone charges are commonly charged to clients.
- Medical records and other documentation. Personal injury cases typically require medical records. Clients are typically billed for these costs.
- Expert or consultant fees. Some legal matters require the expertise of professionals to substantiate the position of a client. In injury cases, these often include doctors, accident reconstruction experts, and safety experts.
- Court reporter costs. If depositions are taken, clients are responsible for the fees of court reporters.
- Witness subpoena fees. Local rules typically require that parties requesting a witness pay a standard fee.
- Travel expenses. If an attorney or staff member must travel to attend depositions or court hearings, mileage costs, and hotel expenses are usually charged to the client.
It never hurts to provide clients with some control over their legal fees, It also never hurts for clients to recognize the value of an attorney’s work.
Attorneys can help the poor and unfortunate who cannot fight solely by themselves. They can help parents fighting for custody of children. Law school provides the tools necessary to practice law, which is serving clients. The CDTA provides both the hard and soft skills that attorney-advocates require to meet the needs of clients in the 21st Century. At CDTA, we train, educate, and develop students to be exceptional attorneys and trial advocates. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.