What are the different types of fee agreements that attorneys use?
Flat FeeA flat fee is a set amount of money that is decided upon at the beginning of the representation, before any work is done on the case. Because of the many uncertainties of litigation, this type of agreement is seldom used. In fact, outside of the occasional favor to a longstanding client, flat fees are typically used only in the most routine matters, e.g., drafting a form will, or perhaps a one-time court appearance on a civil infraction or low-level criminal offense.
Hourly RateAn hourly rate for an attorney is the same as it would be for any other job. The attorney states how much he or she charges per hour (which may be different depending on the type of case involved). This is the attorney's hourly rate. The fee you pay the attorney is calculated by multiplying the hourly rate by the number of hours the attorney spends working on your case. Hourly rate agreements are an option in most cases. However, it is important to understand that under this type of agreement you are responsible for the fees to your attorney regardless of the outcome of the case. That is, you have a contractual obligation to pay your attorney the agreed upon fee whether you win or lose your case. For this reason, most individuals tend to shy away from hourly rate fee agreements.
Contingency FeeA final type of fee agreement is the contingency fee agreement. This is the most common fee agreement for the individual who brings claims for his or her personal injuries, and many other types of cases. In a contingency fee, you and your attorney enter into a type of partnership in the case. Your attorney only earns a fee if you recover in the case. And the amount of the fee earned by the attorney depends on the amount of the recovery. A fairly standard percentage for a contingency fee is one-third of the total recovery. The law does place some limitations on the types of case that can be handled under a contingency fee, but generally these types of agreements are allowed.