The Difference Between Attorney Fees and Costs
WHAT ARE ATTORNEY FEESAttorney fees are the compensation an attorney earns for performing the legal services in a case. They are the attorney's "wages" or "salary" for doing work. Attorney fees can be calculated by hourly rates, a percentage contingent fee. In employment cases, attorney fees are sometimes ordered to be paid by the court if the employee is successful in the case and there is a law or statute authorizing the court to make such an award.
Attorney fees are entirely separate and independent of case costs.
WHAT ARE CASE COSTSCase costs are expenditures of money which the attorney has to pay to third persons to begin and continue the case. These kinds of costs can include court filing fees, process servers fees, court reporters, messenger fees, photocopying and scanning by an outside service, travel expenses, expert witness fees and similar charges.
Case costs can also include charges the attorney makes to the client for internal office functions related to the client's specific case, such as photocopying, sending and receive faxes and telephone charges. Not every attorney charges clients for all of these kinds of expenses (I do not).
Contingency fee attorneys often advance case costs on behalf of a client and then get reimbursed when the case settles or a judgment is obtained in court. However, it is important to understand that most states (including California) require the client be responsible for case costs regardless of the outcome of the case - win or lose.
CONCLUSIONIf you are a client considering engaging a lawyer for a civil case, you should be certain to understand and discuss the difference between attorney fees and costs so that there is no later misunderstanding between you on this subject.