Choosing a Fee Arrangement with your Attorney

If you find yourself involved in a legal dispute, the first question you need to answer is whether to hire an attorney. We have created this infographic to help you decide whether to hire a lawyer for your matter. If you have reached the conclusion that you want to hire a lawyer, the next question is what arrangement would be best for you to work with a lawyer. You could hire an attorney on a contingency basis, hire an attorney on an hourly basis, find free assistance, from a legal aid organization, law student clinic, or volunteer attorney. While we do not recommend that you try to handle the case yourself, we have provided some resources to help those who decide to go forward pro se in another article, “Handling a Case Yourself.”

Contingency Attorneys

Choosing-a-Fee-Arrangement-with-your-AttorneyAn attorney might work a case in county court in exchange for a contingency fee, which is a fee they earn as a percentage of the amount they recover for you. A typical contingency fee is 30-40%, although it can be more in business cases or with court approval for personal injury cases. Consider how much you would be willing or able to gamble to recover the whole amount due. Is it zero? If so, then a contingency fee contract may be the right choice. In these arrangements, the lawyer takes a risk by betting their effort and skill on a favorable outcome.

A successful claim of $15,000.00 would earn the attorney $4,500-6,000.00. Then, the attorney would subtract the costs, such as filing fee, copies, postage, parking, legal research, from the remainder. The client might end up with 5,000.00 or less of the claimed amount owed even if there is a victory. The downside of this arrangement is that at the end of the case, the client ends up with less of the total losses than they may feel entitled to receive. The benefit is that the client did not have to advance any legal fees or costs for the case.

Hourly Attorneys

Sometimes an attorney can resolve a claim with a strongly-worded letter, commonly referred to as a “demand letter.” The letter basically says, “pay me or else I will sue you.” If you think that the debtor will respond to such a letter by paying, then you might be better served by an hourly attorney. The attorney would likely spend an hour researching the facts and law about the situation, another hour writing a letter, and an hour or two negotiating with the debtor. Consider how much you would be willing or able to gamble to recover the whole amount due. Is it $1,500-3,000.00? If so, and you think you could recover the total amount you are claiming for less than a contingency fee, this arrangement might be a good choice for you.

Another situation where this is a wise choice might be when you have many outstanding debts owed to you. Be sure to consider whether it is possible to recover the attorney’s fees from the opposing party, based on a statute or in a contract. Your attorney’s fees may be a good investment, if the debtor has funds, if you have a lot of debtors, or if there is a basis to recover the fees from the debtor or debtors.

Alternative Fee Agreements

There are new trends in corporate representation, that are being called “alternative” or “value billing” arrangements. These are used primarily by highly sophisticated entities with a high volume of legal work. The Association of Corporate Counsel has created a valuable guide to explain these structures, found here.

Free Legal Assistance

You may qualify for free legal assistance, if you meet the Federal Poverty Guidelines and other requirements. These are some excellent resources for those needing free legal assistance.

Dade Legal Aid

Legal Services of Greater Miami

University of Miami School of Law Clinics

St. Thomas University School of Law Clinics

Nova Southeastern University Shepard-Broad School of Law Clinics

Florida International University School of Law Clinics

Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service

It may be that you do not qualify for assistance from a free service. Another option to find an attorney is to contact the Florida Bar Referral Service by clicking here  or calling (800) 342-8011 to find a lawyer. The Florida Bar’s lawyer referral service is maintained as a public service by The Florida Bar. Your call will be answered by a lawyer referral staff member who will take your name, address and telephone number. You will be asked to state your problem briefly. The referral service will then contact one of the attorneys who have joined the panel, and paid a fee for the benefit of receiving referrals from the Florida Bar. You can have a second referral if you didn’t like what the first attorney said to you after your first consultation.

. There is a charge for using this service.

If you would like our help with your legal dispute, we would love to hear from you!

Call us at 786-533-1100 to schedule a consultation.

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Author Bio

Jane Muir

Jane Muir is a Shareholder and Managing Partner of J. Muir & Associates, a Miami business law firm she founded in 2018. With more than 13 years of experience in business, she is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of legal areas, including business litigation, contracts, corporate formation, insolvency, nonprofits, partnership disputes, and other business law matters.

Jane received her Juris Doctor from the University of Miami School of Law and is a member of the Dade County Bar Association and Coral Gables Bar Association. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named among the “20 Under 40” in 2016 by Brickell Magazine. Super Lawyers named her a Rising Star from 2014–2019 and selected her for the Super Lawyers status.

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