How do attorneys normally charge clients?

by Albert T. Brown Jr., Lawyer Referral Service Panelist

Lawyers who are retained to represent defendants in criminal matters frequently charge a flat fee payable in advance for the criminal representation, or for payment due at particular stages in the litigation. Those who handle criminal or divorce cases are prohibited from charging a fee that is dependent upon the outcome of the case.  Some routine matters are frequently billed on a flat fee basis.

The second fee system commonly employed is a contingent fee where a civil lawyer can charge a fee based upon the outcome of a particular project.  This could be the size of a verdict or settlement in a personal injury case, the amount of a tax reduction in a reevaluation case, or perhaps the amount of a tax refund in an income tax refund case.

Most other lawyers perform work on a time and materials basis, basing their charges on an hourly rate where the amount of time the lawyer spends on a case is multiplied by that rate to produce a fee due from the client plus expenses.

Lawyers are ethically prevented from charging an unreasonable fee and the factors which determine a reasonable fee are found in the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct 1.5(a)

1. The time and labor required, the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, and the skill requisite to perform the legal services properly;

2. The likelihood, if apparent to the client, that the acceptance of the particular   employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer;

3. The fee customarily charged in the locality for similar legal services;

4. The amount involved and the results obtained;

5. The time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances;

6. The nature and the length of the professional relationship with the client;

7. The experience, reputation and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the            services; and

8. Whether the fee is fixed or contingent.

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