A client pays contingent fees to a lawyer only if the lawyer handles a case successfully. Lawyers and clients use this arrangement only in cases where money is being claimed—most often in cases involving personal injury or workers’ compensation.
In a contingent fee arrangement, the lawyer agrees to accept a fixed percentage (often about one third) of the recovery, which is the amount finally paid to the client. If you win the case, the lawyer’s fee comes out of the money that awarded to you from your settlement. If you lose your case, neither you nor the lawyer will get any money, but you will not be required to pay your attorney for the work done on the case either. On the other hand, win or lose, you probably will have to pay court filing fees, the costs related to deposing witnesses, and/or similar charges.
The amount a lawyer can charge for a contingency fee is generally not regulated by law. There are some limited exceptions to this rule, including worker’s compensation claims or claims brought under certain federal laws like the Federal Tort Claims Act. However, because of competition, contingency fees are very uniform throughout the country. Usually, the more complex or time-consuming cases which require the expenditure of considerable costs by the lawyer will demand higher contingency fees. If the lawyer must risk substantial sums of money on risky cases, he or she will often charge a higher contingency fee.
Contingency fees could sometimes be frustrating for both clients and attorneys. In general, contingency fees might be considered a problem for the client or attorney:
- If a case settles quickly or recovers a lot of money, clients may feel frustrated that the attorney was paid more than the attorney deserves.
- If a case goes longer than expected or recovers little money, the attorney may be frustrated by lost time and expenses.
In other words, contingency fees by nature will not be 100% accurate, and either the attorney or client may feel somewhat shorted. Attorneys understand this risk, and they can still offset being paid too little on some cases with being paid more than expected on others. Still, clients paying a large fee to an attorney may feel frustrated and want to consider a different payment option depending on the size or nature of their case.
Contingency fees are rarely, if ever, available for these legal areas:
- Real estate
- Business litigation
- Criminal defense (DUI, traffic, drug, and other charges)
- Divorce and similar family law issues
- Drafting a contract, will, trust, or other legal documents
- Starting a business
- Registering a trademark, copyright, or patent
Consult one of the experienced attorneys at Gordon & Gordon Law Firm to see if your important legal matter can be handled without any cost to you upfront. Our free initial consultation has no obligation, and we’ll work closely with you to determine what the best approach to your case might be, even if a contingency fee is not available or other options are preferable.