The most common way for a private attorney to bill is hourly. Attorneys bill from a hundred to thousands of dollars per hour, depending on the practice area, skill, demand, and other facts regarding the attorney.
Another way attorneys bill is on commission or contingency. This is more common in personal injury cases like slip & falls or insurance claims than other practice areas. In exchange for representation on the case, the client agrees to give the attorney a percentage of the total outcome. If the attorney loses the case, the client generally owes nothing. There are variations of this commission where the client owes a certain amount of fees or costs throughout the process as well. The fee agreement will outline any costs.
Attorneys can also bill as a flat rate, subscription (“retainer”), or some hybrid of any of the above types of billing. A flat rate means you pay one price for a set product or service. Subscription is a monthly price for ongoing services.
Attorneys can require an advance payment as well. In legal terms, this is frequently called a retainer payment, but that term can mean a variety of things.
“Retainer” can be used to mean a nonrefundable fee simply to begin representation, a monthly fee for service, or an advance payment. Be sure to clarify if your attorney mentions a retainer.
Attorneys may also require interest or fees for late payments, reasonable attorney fees for collection efforts, and other payment terms to ensure timely payments, just like any other business.
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