When hiring a lawyer, it is important to understand how legal fees and billing work, especially if your case is unsuccessful. Different payment models like hourly, flat-rate, and contingency fees all impact lawyer compensation. Contingency fee structures, where the lawyer only gets paid if you win your case, are common for certain types of litigation.
Contingency agreements allow those with limited means to access quality representation by shifting the risk to the lawyer. If the case loses, you owe nothing, but your lawyer is not paid for their work. This type of billing motivates a Atlanta contingency lawyer to achieve maximum settlements so they can collect their percentage.
How Lawyers Can Get Paid When They Lose a Case
Lawyers billing by the hour get paid based on time worked, regardless of whether the case ultimately wins or loses. They regularly invoice clients for hours of meetings in court sessions, and most charge for emails and phone calls, too. These ongoing hourly fees are owed, no matter the outcome, so even if you lose, you still have to pay the fees.
Many firms require an upfront retainer fee that goes into the lawyer’s trust account. This retainer acts as a deposit to pay hourly invoices during the case. If the retainer runs low, the client must replenish it, or the lawyer may withdraw. Retainers provide the firm with guaranteed funds.
Some legal services, like drafting basic wills, incorporations, or prenuptial agreements, are billed at a predetermined flat rate rather than by hourly billing increments. These flat fees are meant to cover a clearly defined scope of work and provide cost certainty regardless of how much time the task takes. Once the flat fee service is agreed upon between the client and the firm, that set amount is owed to the lawyer as payment for completing the specified legal task, regardless of the ultimate outcome.
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When a Contingency Fee Structure Is Best for You
Contingency fees work well when liability is clear in a case with potentially high damages. The lawyer gets motivated by a percentage of large awards. Contingency agreements allow those with limited means to access representation and pursue valid claims.
Plaintiffs who cannot afford high hourly rates benefit from contingency arrangements. The lawyer fronts all costs and only collects if successful. The client has little financial risk beyond losing the case itself.
Situations where non-monetary goals are important may not be the best option for contingency fee structures. Settlements involving property tax appeals, discrimination claims, and similar scenarios do not produce funds for the lawyer to collect a percentage. Hourly billing may better fit these cases.
Understanding Whether You Qualify for a Contingency Fee-Based Case
Plaintiffs with strong legal claims but limited financial resources are well-suited for contingency fee lawyers. The lawyer fronts case costs in exchange for a percentage of any settlement or award. This allows less affluent clients to access quality representation.
Contingency agreements open the justice system to middle and lower-income individuals by removing budget constraints. Lawyers accept deferred payment in cases with apparent liability where the resulting jury awards or out-of-court settlements can fund their fees.
The strength of the case itself is more important than the client’s upfront ability to pay standard legal fees. Contingency billing matches claims with merit to skilled lawyers motivated by their potential cut of sizable judgments.
When You Lose Your Case and Want to Pursue Again
If you lose a contingency fee case, hiring the same lawyer to pursue the matter further on contingency may be challenging. The lawyer already spent time and resources but was not compensated. They may be hesitant to take the risk again without guaranteed payment.
Switching to an hourly billing structure can make it easier to retain the original lawyer for any follow-up legal work after losing a contingency case. Hourly billing provides more certain compensation for the lawyer’s efforts moving forward.
Getting a new lawyer to take an appeal or related case on contingency after a loss requires a strong new argument and minimal prior costs. The new lawyer needs to see high upside potential with limited downside risk to have an incentive to invest in litigation that already proved unsuccessful.
How the Money Is Given to Your Lawyer When You Win Your Case
If you win your case through a favorable settlement or court award, your contingency fee lawyer earns their percentage payment at that time. After deducting any expenses, the lawyer’s fee is taken from the total amount recovered for you. This contingency payment compensates the lawyer for their work and the risk taken on the case.
For settlements, the defendant usually issues a lump sum check payable to both you and your lawyer. Your lawyer will contact you to arrange to endorse the check so funds can be properly distributed into their firm’s account and your own. Taxes may need to be withheld before dispersing any settlement funds.
If awarded damages by a judge or jury, the defendant will be ordered to pay the amounts owed. Your lawyer petitions the court to ensure payment is issued timely. Once received, they will disburse your portion after taking their contingency percentage. Any appeals could delay this final payment process.
Get the Legal Expertise You Need without Worrying About Attorney Fees
Have you been harmed due to negligence or misconduct but fear the cost of hiring a lawyer? Contingency fee agreements allow those with valid claims to access an experienced attorney without expensive retainers or hourly rates. This billing method shifts the risk to the lawyer, who only earns a fee if you collect damages.
At John Foy & Associates, we believe justice should not only be for those who can pay steep legal fees upfront. We offer free consultations to evaluate potential contingency cases. If we take your case, our payment comes as a percentage of what we recover for you. Contact us for a free consultation today to discuss whether we can help get you the maximum compensation you deserve.