There are different types of fees which are charged by legal professionals. Lawyers may charge a retainer fee or work on a contingency basis. Many lawyers charge flat fees for the various services they provide. Sometimes clients, such as large corporations, pay a retainer fee. This means that the lawyer is always available to answer questions or handle any legal matters should they arise.

Paying on Contingency

When a lawyer agrees to be paid on contingency it means that the plaintiff will pay all the attorney fees out of the money that is awarded should the plaintiff win the case. If the case is not won, the attorney will not receive a fee. This does not mean that they will not have to pay the attorney anything. The client will still be responsible for paying any expenses that the attorney might accrue while pursuing the case. This might include fees for things such as investigative services, court costs, medical reports, or expert witnesses. The plaintiff and lawyer will discuss the terms of the contingency prior to starting the proceedings. They will make an agreement stating that the lawyer will receive a predetermined percentage of the awarded amount. This can be substantially more than what the normal fees would be for a lawyer to take the case but it does have some advantages.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Contingency

There can be several advantages to paying a lawyer on a contingency basis. For one thing, if you do not win the case, there is no huge fee for the lawyer’s services; you only pay him if you win the case. Contingency is a great option for someone who cannot otherwise handle the financial expense of hiring an attorney. Sometimes, a lawyer will work a little more diligently on a case if they know that they only get paid if they win the case. When a lawyer takes a case on contingency, they truly believe that the case is winnable.

The only disadvantage of paying on contingency basis is that when you do win a substantial amount of money a very large portion of it will go to pay the lawyer. Of course, this percentage is preset, but the amount that comes out of the settlement or award will also include any unpaid expenses that the lawyer incurred while working on the case. But for cases which involve large awards contingency may be the best option and a great way to secure exceptional representation that would normally not be in one’s financial reach. However, not all cases can be taken on contingency basis.

Types of Lawyers who Work on Contingency Basis

In a contingency arrangement, the lawyer will agree to represent a client and get their fee only if they win the case for you. Whether or not a lawyer will agree to this type of gamble will depend largely on the type of case. For instance, it is unethical for a lawyer to take a divorce case on contingency basis. But if a divorce has already been granted, then the lawyer may agree to collect overdue support that is owed to a former spouse on a contingency basis. A lawyer will study a case and consider the complexity of the case and how much time it may consume and then choose whether or not it is worth it to take it on contingency. Most of the time, if a lawyer takes a case on a contingency basis, they feel like there is a strong likelihood they can win the case and the recovery will be substantial enough to make it worth everyone’s time. Cases that are commonly taken on a contingency include personal injury cases, sexual harassment, employment discrimination suits or malpractice and some other cases which may be likely to end with substantial financial awards.


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