The following information regarding lawyers' fees
is brought to you as a public service by the lawyers of the State of
Oregon. The material presented is general legal information intended
to alert you to possible legal problems and solutions.
do lawyers compute their fees?
Many lawyers charge an hourly rate for their services, but there are other
types of fees, including "fixed" or "flat fees" for
a particular service, and contingent fees. The fee can vary depending
upon the circumstances of the case and the experience of the lawyer.
A lawyer must consider a number of elements in computing a fee:
most important is the amount of time the lawyer spends doing work
for you. Most lawyers who charge by the hour have a minimum billing
time of 1/10 to 1/25 of an hour. You will be charged for all the time
the lawyer actually spends working on your case, including research,
writing, and phone calls made to discuss you legal matter. Many lawyers
will charge a separate hourly rate for work performed by the lawyers
Ability, experience and reputation are natural considerations in setting
a fee. You should expect to pay a higher hourly rate for a lawyer
whose expertise in a specific area of the law is in demand.
The results achieved, in some circumstances, may be an element
in deciding your fee. The "contingent fee" arrangement is an example.
This is an arrangement often used in personal injury or collection
cases where the lawyer receives no fee unless he or she recovers money
for the client. If money is recovered, then the lawyer receives a
percentage of the recovery agreed upon at the time the lawyer begins
representing the client. The percentage is based on a number of factors
including the type of case and the stage at which the case is resolved.
The client must, however, be responsible for court costs, such as
filing fees and depositions, and must reimburse the lawyer for any
out of pocket expenses incurred by the lawyer, such as for expert
witnesses or document production. Contingent fee arrangements are
not permitted in domestic relations cases and criminal matters.
When should you discuss fees?
the very first interview. The lawyer may not be able to forecast the
exact amount of time and effort required, but will be able to give
you an estimate based upon past experience.
neither the lawyer nor the client can tell at first how much work
will be involved or what result will be determined. You should not
hesitate to discuss fees at any time during the handling of your legal
matter or even after you receive your statement.
is responsible for the fee?
are the client and must pay the fee and expenses. In some cases that
go to court, a judge may award a partial or full fee to be paid by
the other side, but this does not release you from the obligation
to pay your lawyer. Some fee judgments are not collectable and others
cover only a part of the services rendered.
do you pay?
lawyers will require a retainer fee, or advance deposit, to apply
against expenses and fees that are incurred. You should expect to
pay this when you ask your lawyer to represent you. In hourly fee
cases, you should ask the lawyer for a monthly billing with an itemized
account of services performed and expenses paid. Any questions you
have about the billing should be made as you receive the monthly statements.
A contingent fee case is billed upon completion of the case, except
for expenses that must be paid as they are incurred.
can you hold down your legal fees?
down the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all persons involved
and all facts you can recall that pertain to the case. Doing this
yourself will cut down on the time the lawyer will have to spend gathering
any papers relating to the case to the first interview;
as brief as possible in all interviews with the lawyer;
not allow emotion to color the facts given; be as accurate as you
a full and honest disclosure to the lawyer of all the facts...good
or bad. The lawyer will keep all facts in strictest confidence; and
unnecessary telephone calls to the lawyer.
should consider the financial advantages or disadvantages of a proposed
legal action by discussing it with the lawyer. For example, would
the court costs and legal fees be more than the amount of a bad debt
you would like to recover?
legal advice before signing documents or taking legal action, and
then follow the advice of the lawyer.
Edited September 2011