How Much Does a Lawyer Cost Per Hour?
Having an experienced lawyer on your side when you have legal trouble can be a great resource. A lawyer with a successful track record in the area of law where you are having difficulty can only increase your chances of success. Choosing the best lawyer is the first step to a positive outcome for your case, but the cost of a lawyer is an essential factor to weigh when choosing a legal team.
So, how much do lawyers cost per hour? Do all lawyers charge by the hour? To learn more about how much a personal injury lawyer costs, continue reading.
Is Hiring a Lawyer Expensive?
Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, but not always. We will discuss the factors that affect how much a person can pay for a lawyer's work below. The cost of a lawyer will also depend on what type of payment structure you and the lawyer have agreed to, the lawyer's experience and track record, the amount of work and firm resources the case requires, the lawyer's reputation, and the area where the lawyer practices.
The cost of a lawyer is a significant consideration that most people have when looking into whether they can hire legal help. If you want to hire a lawyer to help you with your legal issue, weigh the costs and benefits.
How Do Law Firms Charge for Their Services?
You may be vaguely familiar with the various payment structures that lawyers use, but you may not know how each works. Here are some of the most common payment structures that lawyers use and how each structure affects the client.
Payment depends on the results of the case and won't be due until after the case. Lawyers typically use a contingency fee model in personal injury cases. The American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Responsibility prohibits lawyers and clients from entering into a contingency fee agreement if the client is facing criminal charges or has a family law case.
Clients and lawyers agree on payment before the lawyer begins working. In a typical contingency fee agreement, a lawyer will charge the client a percentage of the final settlement amount as their fee. The client will usually pay the lawyer around 33 percent of the final settlement, depending on how the case resolves. Clients pay no fees if the attorney does not obtain compensation for their losses. This aligns with your interests and is a win-win situation for everyone.
A flat fee is a set amount of money a lawyer charges for their work. A flat fee is a common form of payment for legal services. A flat fee agreement is advantageous for a client because there are no surprises when the bill comes. Clients know exactly how much they will have to pay for a lawyer’s services.
Flat fee agreements are standard in certain case types, but not all. Because flat fees are a one-time payment despite the amount of work, the lawyer may choose a payment structure that will adequately compensate them for their work. Although the Model Rules allow a flat fee payment arrangement in any case type, lawyers do not choose this payment structure for all cases, especially not for injury claims.
Hourly fees are the most common fee arrangement between lawyers and clients. Lawyers can use hourly fee agreements in any case, but this does not mean they do. Under an hourly fee structure, the lawyer charges a certain amount of money per hour - or partial hour - worked on a case.
Hourly payment structures are not finite, like a contingency fee agreement or a flat fee arrangement. Because of that, there may be some anxiety from the client during each billing cycle because there is no way for the client to predict how much money they will owe for the lawyer's work. Most lawyers keep an itemization of the work they and their staff do on your case each billing cycle, and you can ask for a copy for clarification on your bill.
How much a lawyer charges hourly for their services depends on various factors. The differences among lawyers can lead to drastically different charges. However, hourly fees are not a concern in injury claims.
What Determines a Lawyer’s Fees?
Several factors influence how much a lawyer will charge for their services. If you learn about the lawyer's experience and reputation, you might know how much the lawyer will charge even before your initial consultation. The following factors influence a lawyer's fees:
The Lawyer’s Experience
The lawyer's experience is a significant element that affects the lawyer's rate. Experience can take many forms, and lawyers who have worked for many years have more trial experience. The complexity of cases a lawyer has handled also contributes to their experience - not simply years worked.
Experience may also mean experience with the specific type of case that a client presents to the lawyer. A lawyer may have years of legal practice under their belt, but if their primary area of practice is criminal law, they would not be right to handle a car accident case. A criminal attorney newly branching out into personal injury law is likely not the right attorney for an accident victim.
A lawyer may specialize in an area of law in certain states. Lawyers certified as specialists have particularized experience in an area of law. If a lawyer is a specialist, they may charge more than another lawyer without a specialist certification, though they might do a better job.
The Lawyer’s Track Record
In addition to the lawyer’s experience, a lawyer with a successful track record might have a higher rate than a lawyer without a successful track record. If a lawyer has a history of getting their client positive outcomes, the clients might discuss their experiences online.
To get a sense of the lawyer's record of success, check out their Google reviews. While looking at reviews, remember that a client may express anger with a lawyer for how their case concluded, even if the lawyer got the client the best available solution.
The Amount of Work the Case Requires
The more work the lawyer needs to put into the case, the more the lawyer might charge the client. One reason people hire lawyers is that the problem they face is too complex to resolve on their own. The more complex a case gets, the more money it can cost. However, with the right lawyer handling a difficult case, the better chance you have of obtaining more compensation, so everyone wins in the end.
Some cases require more time to resolve, especially those involving catastrophic injuries. Insurance companies can make the process difficult, leading an injury lawyer to prepare and file a lawsuit in civil court. This takes more time and resources than an insurance settlement, so the lawyer might charge a higher fee if a case requires litigation or goes to trial.
You should understand any increased rates due to litigation needs before you sign the contingency agreement with your attorney.
The Lawyer’s Reputation in the Area
Lawyers regularly attract injured clients through advertising and word-of-mouth. Law firms strive to maintain a good reputation in the communities where they practice, as reputations translate to monetary value. Clients who have a positive experience with a lawyer will tell others in the area about the lawyer's competence and quality of client service.
The better the reputation the lawyer has, the more money the lawyer might charge for their work. Having a lawyer with a good reputation in the legal community is an advantage for the client, as a lawyer with a good reputation usually has good working relationships with the other lawyers in the area, insurance companies, courts, and more. Those professional relationships can translate to better outcomes for the client.
The lawyer’s reputation involving their staff can also be significant. If the lawyer is respectful to their staff, you can trust they will likely be great to you. You can trust the firm works well as a team, and a legal team that works well together means you have a better chance of a successful outcome for your case.
The Type of Case
The type of case the client has affects the lawyer’s rate. Say you go to the same lawyer for two different criminal charges. Depending on the charge, the lawyer’s rate may increase. A lawyer may charge less money if you have a simple possession charge or a misdemeanor by agreeing to a flat fee or charging the same hourly rate, but the bill is smaller because the case quickly reaches its resolution. The same lawyer may charge a large retainer fee and will likely spend many more hours working on a first-degree murder case.
This can also apply to injury cases. A lawyer may charge a lower percentage of a client with a relatively minor injury from a cut-and-dry rear-end crash. However, if a client has a life-altering and disabling injury from a complicated pile-up involving many types of vehicles, the percentage might be slightly higher. Having - and paying for - the right representation is especially critical in such cases. As long as fees are reasonable given the circumstances, it is always worth it to hire a lawyer for an injury claim.
The Law Firm Resources the Case Requires
Lawyers use their knowledge to provide an important service and help many people, but lawsuits and other legal work cost money.
In their itemizations, lawyers will show the expenses they incurred while working on the case. You will have to reimburse the law firm resources that your case depletes, though this reimbursement will come from an injury settlement - not your pocket.
Does My Location Determine How Much I Will Pay for a Lawyer?
Depending on where you are in the country, some lawyers may charge very different rates for their work, and they may charge different rates for the same type of work. For example, a divorce lawyer in New York or California most likely charges more money than a divorce lawyer in North Carolina or Georgia.
Like other industries, lawyers and law firms must consider their market when setting their rates. However, for injury cases, contingency fees usually hover around 33 to 40 percent of a settlement across the country.
Is Hiring a Lawyer Worth the Money?
Yes, despite the potential cost of a lawyer’s services, hiring a lawyer is worth the money. There are many advantages to having a lawyer represent your interests, no matter the type of case you are facing. Lawyers have knowledge, training, and experience that laypersons do not. Lawyers use their knowledge, training, and experience to zealously advocate for their clients.
The law is not a simple discipline, and although some areas seem straightforward, many different issues may arise while a matter is pending that requires extensive legal research to achieve a positive result. A lawyer can spot the issues. If someone does not have experience with issue-spotting, they may overlook a critical issue that may be the death knell for their case.
Lawyers know how other lawyers think. Because a lawyer can get inside the head of another lawyer, they can anticipate opposing arguments and negotiate positive resolutions for their clients.
A lawyer will not let the insurance company bully them into accepting a lowball settlement offer that leaves the client unsatisfied. An unrepresented client may be vulnerable to the tactics of the opposing side of a lawsuit or negotiation and may accept less than what they deserve. Having a lawyer in your corner helps you avoid that possibility. Contact our personal injury lawyers for a free consultation today.
David Abels has carved a niche for himself in the personal injury law sector, dedicating a substantial part of his career since 1997 to representing victims of various accidents. With a law practice that spans over two decades, his expertise has been consistently recognized within the legal community.