This article is going to discuss the payment of lawyers. It will answer questions like how much should I pay a lawyer? Am I paying my lawyer too much? What is a retainer agreement? And whether or not your lawyer is overcharging you.
What is the Cost of Hiring an Attorney?
This is possibly the most common, yet confusing, question to answer. The reason is because attorneys set their own fees. The fee for an attorney can be anywhere from $0 to $1000 an hour. This all depends on what the attorney can get for their time, which usually coincides with their skill level.
It also depends on where you are located. The cost of a Manhattan attorney will be greatly different from one in Knoxville, Tennessee. The national average for an attorney is around $225 hourly;1 the national average for a divorce is nearly $13,000.2 The type of law the lawyer practices makes a difference as well. Is it easy? Is it common? Or, does it take a specialist?
The Ways Lawyers Charge
There are three ways that lawyers typically charge clients. They charge hourly; they charge contingency; or they charge in a lump sum. Things like wills and contracts might be done in a lump sum, ongoing work is billed hourly, and personal injury is all contingency.
Don’t be fooled when you hear the car accident lawyer come on a commercial and say “either we win, or you don’t pay.” Every personal injury attorney does it the same exact way. How contingency works is that the lawyer will take a third of the final judgement. If the attorney does not win, they cannot get paid because a third of $0 is still $0.
What is a Retainer?
When people tell me “oh I have an attorney on retainer,” I just think; oh, so you have an attorney who is ripping you off? A retainer is a set amount that you deposit up front which goes into a special account of the lawyer. That way, when the lawyer does work, they know that you will have the money to pay them and they withdraw that money until the pot is empty.
Unfortunately, what this means is that the attorney has free reign over your money. If the attorney so much as thinks about you, they may use that as a billable hour and charge you for it. In other words, there is little accountability.
Obviously, for reasons listed above, giving an attorney a retainer is not recommended. It is also harder to get your money back if the attorney is not doing a good job and you want to fire them. Further, they may keep part of the retainer they did not earn because they made you waive your rights to a refund in your agreement.
Is My Lawyer Charging Me Too Much?
That is a difficult question to answer because a lawyer’s time is worth what you are willing to pay for it. If you believe the quality of the lawyers work is worth $1000 an hour, than far be it for me to disagree with you. However, if you are displeased with your attorney, and they are charging way more than you know others do, that might be a problem.
How Do I Avoid Paying an Attorney Too Much?
The answer is simple for this one. Read your attorney’s bio to see if they are a good match. See if they went to a reputable school. Try to find if they have reviews from clients or other attorneys recommending the quality of their work.
And of course, keep your attorney accountable for what they charge you. Question questionable invoice details and do your due diligence to make sure you are getting what you pay for. Lastly, make sure they are not charging you bogus things like a consultation fee.
How We Are Different
Shield Wall Legal is different in that we do not charge retainers; or at least, we have not done so yet. Nor have we felt the need to do so. Shield Wall Legal is like everyone else in that we do not charge for personal injury or car accidents. We bill by the hour and in 6-minute increments so you will never pay for a service you are not getting.
We welcome your highest level of scrutiny and we believe you will be pleasantly surprised at how we are changing everyone’s opinions of lawyers as just being money-hungry greedy dirtbags. Contact us to learn how we can help you!