Whenever you hire a lawyer, you will likely be asked to sign a retainer agreement. A retainer agreement is a contract between the client and law firm that tells you that the law firm will represent the client in pursuing a particular legal issue and how the client will pay a legal fee to the law firm for that service. Generally speaking, there are three types of contracts for fees:
- Hourly Rate Retainer Agreements;
- Flat Fee Retainer Agreements;
- and Contingency Fee Retainer Agreements.
Hourly Rate Retainer Agreements
Under an hourly rate agreement your lawyer will bill for the amount of time spent working for you. The number of hours a lawyer spends in pursuing a resolution to a legal issue is multiplied by an hourly rate to arrive at the legal fee. Hourly rates vary depending on the type of legal matter and the skill level of the lawyer you hire.
Flat Fee Retainer Agreements
A flat fee agreement sets out a fixed legal fee no matter how many (or how few) hours are expended in pursuing a resolution to a legal issue.
Contingency Fee Retainer Agreements
Under a contingency fee agreement the lawyer acts for a client in return for a percentage of a lump sum settlement or trial award. If no money is recovered, there is no legal fee to pay.
Always talk fees with your lawyer at the FIRST meeting. You should always make sure a fee agreement is made in writing so no dispute arises later.