Information About Attorney Fee Arrangements
As a general practice, if a contingency fee arrangement is used, no fee is paid until a settlement or judgment is obtained in your favor. This type of fee agreement typically is used in personal injury cases.
A flat fee involves the payment of one fee amount, usually at the commencement of a case. The flat fee is all that you pay for legal services. Flat fees are used in a variety of cases. They oftentimes are used in traffic, some family law, and some criminal proceedings. They are used in estate preparation cases at times as well.
Finally, an hourly fee requires a client to pay for legal services based on the amount of time a lawyer spends on a case. Most attorneys require a client to pay a retainer up front at the start of representation. A retainer is quite like a down payment, in this case for legal services.
Lack of Funds to Pay Legal Fees
You may find yourself in a situation in which you simply do not have funds available to pay attorney fees at this time. For example, you may not have enough money to pay a retainer in an hourly fee case. You may not have funds to pay the flat fee in a case. If that is the case, you need to explore what options may be available to you.
Fee Payment Plans
Some, but not all, attorneys will be willing to enter into a payment plan with you. You need to keep in mind, however, that if you fail to honor a payment plan, a lawyer will take steps to withdraw from your case.
If you want to have hopes of working out a payment plan with an attorney, you need to be upfront about your financial situation from day one. You need to advise the attorney of your financial limitations when you meet during an initial consultation.
If you are involved in a certain types of criminal cases, and cannot pay for your attorney, the court will appoint one for you. Keep in mind that not all criminal cases quality for the appointment of an attorney. If there is no chance for you to end up incarcerated, and if the charge truly is a minor one with minimal repercussions, the court does not have the duty to appoint counsel for you.
Family Law Cases
If you are involved in a divorce, or other type of family law case, the court does not need to appoint an attorney for you, as a general rule. However, in some communities, there are legal services available to you for a fee based on your income. In some instances, you may pay no fee. In others you will pay something of a more minimal fee based on your income. Even if there is a minimal fee based on your income, you are likely to be able to pay it over time.
Legal aid organizations and law school law clinic represent two different types of resources for free or low cost legal representation in some communities and in some cases. You need to bear in mind that these types of services are not available in many communities across the United States.
Schedule an Initial Consultation
The first step in understanding what options are available to you is scheduling what is called an initial consultation with a lawyer. Again, during this session, you need to be honest about your legal situation.
The reality is that a good many attorneys will not want to take your case if you are unable to meet their fee payment criteria. With that said, by doing your homework, and taking your time to find an attorney, you very well may be able to find a lawyer that will work with you on fee payments.
If you have a particularly interesting or compelling legal matter, even an attorney I private practice may consider taking your vase pro bono, or for no fee. As has been discussed, the key to obtaining leeway in regard to the fee obligation is being honest and straightforward upfront when coming to a lawyer.