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Estimating Legal Costs, Best Practices

San Francisco, CA |

In choosing to defend oneself or to accept a settlement a client has to be able to estimate legal costs.

1.They need to determine if they can win. That means win + legal costs has to be better than the settlement offered.
2.They need to find out about the process. There is no Handbook that I know of that talks about example costs of discovery, court cost, deposition costs etc.
3.There is no Handbook on how to structure the agreement with the lawyer like contingency etc.

My question is is there a way to find this out for free because in middle of a case and change in tactics, a lawyer would charge to explain their strategy which I find unfair. That is far more expensive than a handbook.

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Attorney answers 4

Best Answer

There is no abstract formula or handbook. All the lawyers I know can rather accurately estimate their own legal expenses. Equally, no lawyer I know can predict how opposing counsel will act and what legal costs that will entail.

When you have a case based on specific facts, find a lawyer who will do this analysis for you for free. I predict you will have no difficult find numerous lawyers prepared to do this analysis with you in anticipation of being retained.

The above is general legal and business analysis. It is not "legal advice" but analysis, and different lawyers may analyse this matter differently, especially if there are additional facts not reflected in the question. I am not your attorney until retained by a written retainer agreement signed by both of us. I am only licensed in California. See also terms and conditions item 9, incorporated as if it was reprinted here.


To answer your question, no, there is no way to find this information out without working directly with an attorney who has reviewed your case. Each case is different and therefore each element of the case may be more or less expensive than other similar cases. If you are concerned that a new lawyer might charge to explain their analysis of and plan for the case, speak with the attorney beforehand and request that they do so as a complimentary service, in the interest of possibly securing your business. Many attorneys will not spend hours working with you without compensation, so this may be difficult.

This response is not intended, nor should it be construed as legal advice. Any information provided is for educational purposes only. To schedule an appointment for an attorney-client privileged consultation, contact me at 530-231-4949. The exchange of communications through and similar social media does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me or my office. Thank you.


legal work is an art, not a science, so there's no "handbook" that encapsulates many years of practice and experience. Trying to explain strategy to a client often goes over their head, or at least some of it does, so it may not be time well spent anyway.

It's not easy for a lawyer to pick up representation in the middle of a case, and since lawyers aren't bookies, we don't give odds of winning, although we can tell you if an argument is a good one or not.

No real shortcuts here. You need to see a lawyer to evaluate your case and determine if a settlement offer is good or not. Plan to hire one to get a well-considered opinion, but be prepared to pay the lawyer you hire for their time.o a client would

Avvo doesn't pay us for these responses, and I'm not your lawyer just because I answer this question or respond to any follow-up comments. If you want to hire me, please contact me. Otherwise, please don't expect a further response. We need an actual written agreement to form an attorney-client relationship. I'm only licensed in CA and you shouldn't rely on this answer, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it's impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue.


I agree with counsel. There may be some lawyers who will provide you with a free consultation and perhaps you can gain a better understanding of the process through this consultation. However, you should not misinterpret that a skilled lawyer is more likely to effectively argue your case than you could do in pro per. Therefore, you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer even if it costs you some money.

None of the information on this site constitutes legal advice. It is an ad for attorney services. The attorneys at DeDecker & Meltzer are licensed attorneys in the state of California. The information is intended to be general in nature as there are many laws and regulations not mentioned on this site that may apply to your situation. No attorney-client relationship is created between you and the Law Office of DeDecker & Meltzer unless a signed written fee agreement exists. You should not rely or act upon the information provided on this site without seeking the advice from an attorney.