For every legal challenge that people face, there is an attorney who specializes in that area of law: divorce, criminal defense, bankruptcy, personal injury, immigration and a range of other legal concerns. Most attorneys bill by the hour, but fees can vary dramatically, depending on geographic region and other factors relating to the case. The essential cost factors to keep in mind include the billing method and pricing structure of the firm, the size and prestige of the firm, the area of law the attorney specializes in, the experience of the attorney, and the location where the legal services are being performed. It’s also important to keep track of the number of hours the attorney is expected to work to complete a case.
Rates and fees
Attorneys can charge anywhere from $150 to $500 an hour or more. However, some lawyers bill flat fees for certain services, such as writing a will or filing a trademark. Other lawyers are paid on a contingency basis, especially for personal injury or patent infringement cases. In these cases, clients pay their attorney a percentage—often around 30 percent to 35 percent—of the judgment or settlement—and only if they win.
Divorce, or family law, attorneys, such as the Law Offices of Albert L. Boasberg in Daly City, California, charge by the hour. Larger and more accomplished law firms or those with more prestigious clients generally have higher rates. These fees range from $200 to $600 an hour.
However, some law firms, such as the Law Offices of Sean R. Whitworth in Marietta, Georgia, or Mark Thomas in Decatur, Georgia, work with families on a budget and charge a flat fee for divorce proceedings. Mark Thomas, for example, charges $100 for a consultation, then offers his clients a flat fee. An uncontested divorce with no children and no negotiation costs $700 total; more complicated divorce proceedings will cost more.
Criminal defense lawyers
A private criminal defense lawyer represents clients in a variety of cases, including drug or weapons possession charges, violent crimes such as murder, theft and juvenile cases. These lawyers, including Pustay & Wells in Newark, New Jersey, and Leppard Law in Orlando, Florida, are paid to protect the rights of their clients and negotiate the best possible outcomes.
These lawyers’ fees vary widely, depending on the length of the case and whether it goes to trial. The median legal fee for criminal cases is $1,500. However, if the defendant must appear in court, the fees will be closer to $2,000 or $3,000. In a felony case, attorneys often charge a $2,500 advance plus $1,000 per day of trial.
Eric Lim in Austin, Texas, charges a flat fee to handle a criminal defense case until (or if) it goes to a jury trial. He offers a custom quote to each client based on the particulars of the case.
Bankruptcy is a stressful and complicated legal matter, and it’s important to have an attorney, such as the Law Offices of Eugene Mogilevsky in Indianapolis or the Law Office of C. Dean Matsas and Associates in Chicago, experienced in this realm of law. Nationwide, the general cost for a bankruptcy attorney is $1,200. It ranges from $700 in Dallas, Texas, to $2,000 in New York City. Although attorneys typically charge a flat fee for a bankruptcy, some will charge an hourly rate for more complex cases, which can be as much as $500.
Personal injury attorneys
Personal injury attorneys, such as the Weinstein Firm in Atlanta or the Finney Law Office in Saint Louis, represent people who have suffered an injury caused by another person, such as a dog bite, during a car crash or another type of accident. These cases are usually paid for after a settlement with a contingency fee. Most attorneys take such cases only if they are solid and backed by good evidence. The contingency fee is usually one-third of the judgment or settlement, so a $30,000 insurance company settlement will lead to a $10,000 legal fee.
Immigration attorneys, such as the Law Office of Ral Obioha in Houston or the Law Offices of Kristy Qiu in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, help prevent their clients from being deported from the U.S., help them secure work visas and help them apply for citizenship, a process that can take as long as seven years. Immigration attorneys usually charge an hourly rate, ranging from $100 to $300. Some lawyers charge flat fees for certain tasks, such as preparing a visa packet, which generally costs $2,000 to $3,000 for a simple one or as much as $12,000 for a complex case.