Recognizing the runaway nature of hourly fees, many law firms and attorneys have established fixed or flat rates for routine legal matters, such as a simple will, a power of attorney, or a first DUIL (driving while under the influence of alcohol).
Typically, more complex legal matters are set up on a mixed fee basis. For example, a non-contested divorce may have a flat fee of $1500. But neither party to the divorce can guarantee that it will non-contested; an attorney’s duty is to get the best advantage for his or her client. Therefore, an attorney may stipulate in a fee agreement that if some areas of the divorce settlement become contested, an hourly fee will be added to the $1500 flat fee for the resolution of the disputed matter.
Likewise, a prospective client may be quoted a flat fee of, e.g. $750 for a first-time charge of drunk driving. However, if it later turns out that the client had a previous drunk driving charge not communicated to the attorney, the fees will likely increase. Often, in matters involving a lawsuit, an attorney will charge a fixed or flat fee for all work performed up to the point of trial (or settlement), after which a separate fee will be added for each day at trial. This is because preparation for trial constitutes intense labor. Actually trying a case requires an entirely different set of skills and labor; hence, additional fees (usually by hour or day).