Attorneys charge for their services using a variety of fee structures and arrangements. Prospective clients who retain counsel to represent them should know in advance what such services will cost, commit the fee agreement to a writing, and understand their recourse if they believe there has been a deviation from the agreement. This does not imply dishonesty or misrepresentation on the part of counsel, but rather, the possibility of misunderstanding or miscomprehension between counsel and client.
Attorneys consider several factors when setting their fees. These include the area of law invoked, the experience of the lawyer, the simple or complicated nature of the issue, and the amount of time it will take to legally resolve the matter. The more aggressively an attorney wages a legal battle, the more expensive it becomes. Moreover, attorneys may not be able to offer a fair quote for their fee if a prospective client has waited until the last minute to obtain legal counsel, and matters must be acted upon very quickly. In such cases, the fees will typically be higher than otherwise.
Importantly, when dealing with a law firm instead of a sole practitioner, a legal client may be surprised to find that the attorney handling much of the case is not the one who initially met with the client. If a client wishes to retain a particular attorney within the firm to handle the case, this arrangement must be expressly articulated and agreed upon.
Finally, it should be noted that many of the routine legal services provided by law firms are performed by paralegals, and not attorneys. When this is the case, any fee arrangement should reflect a lowered hourly rate for these services, charged separately from attorney’s rates.