Illinois law: What is a Contingency Fee?
Contingency fees are contingent on the outcome of your caseIn a contingency fee arrangement, you only pay if you win. When you win (or recover money in a settlement), you pay your attorney a portion of what you receive. The amount is generally 1/3, although it can be higher or lower in some cases. Contingency fees have pros and cons for both the client and the lawyer. The lawyer is taking a risk because if they lose, they get nothing. This is true even if they spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars fighting for you. The reward for taking this risk is a significant fee if they win. For the client, the fee may seem large. However, the client loses nothing if the case isn't successful. This means that anyone can afford an attorney. Even someone with very little resources can hire the best attorney out there.
Contingency fee cases vs. hourly fee casesNot every case can be a contingency fee case. Attorneys only charge contingency fees for cases where the client is seeking monetary compensation. If the end goal is something other than recovering money, you will pay an hourly fee. For example, personal injury cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. If you slip and fall at a restaurant and hurt your back, and you decide to sue, you will be asking the restaurant for monetary damages - money for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc. On the other hand, if you are hiring an attorney to defend you in a criminal case, you would pay an hourly fee.
Talking to your lawyer about feesIt's important to ask a lot of questions before hiring an attorney to represent you. This is true regardless of the type of fee you'll be paying. Always ask what they will charge and get a fee agreement in writing. If the fee is hourly, make sure you will receive detailed bills. Ask if there are additional costs associated with your type of case - court filing fees, etc. If you are hiring a contingency fee attorney, they should cover all costs of your case upfront.