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How much should I pay my lawyer?

How much should I pay my lawyer? I get asked this question all the time. Many lawyer contingency fee agreements are anywhere from 33% up-to 50%. In California we follow the “unconscionable” standard, in other words your fees cannot be considered to abnormally high. It is difficult to put a price on legal services and clients should take three things into consideration: (1) Cost of litigation; (2) Difficulty of the case; and (3) You get what you pay for. With regards to the 1st issue, cost of litigation, it is important to remember that litigation can be costly. How much does it cost your attorney to fight for you? Most cases in the field of personal injury are done on a contingency basis. This means that the attorney is not awarded any fees, unless he is able to obtain a recovery. So in essence the attorney is taking a bit of a risk accepting a case, because they may not be able to recover anything and therefore not get paid. If they are unable to recover, you are NOT required to pay them any amount of money. So if the initial cost of litigation is going to be high, then the attorney is entitled to his fees. However, if the cost of litigation is low, then the amount should be reduced to no more than 40%. With regards to cost it should be noted that most attorney costs are reimbursed after a settlement is awarded. Costs generally include deposition costs, time spent, expert fees and other related expenses to fighting your case. 2nd difficulty of the case: may warrant higher cost. If it is a brain injury or traumatic brain injury case, the costs can be high. If the case is a complicated class action lawsuit, then it may warrant higher cost. Or if the case is a complicated product defect case, involving multinational corporations, then the case can warrant higher cost. This is something that should be consulted with your attorney. Discuss what type of case you are dealing with. All cases are not the same. Some require extensive amount of discovery, depositions, expert fees and time to put together or build your case. Make sure you discuss these factors with your attorney; it will only help to strengthen your mutual respect.  3rd, you get what you pay for: In any service, you essentially get what you pay for. If you have an attorney willing to work for an abnormally low percentage you should be careful. In the event that the case is not handled accordingly it can end up costing you more than employing another attorney. I have seen cases where an attorney took a case for a small fee and ended up recover 15% of what the case was actually worth. While you may have a cause of action against your attorney for malpractice, it is often difficult to pursue these types of cases. It is better to pay an attorney who you feel is worth the money. So keep these three factors in mind the next time you decide to employ a personal injury attorney for any accident you have been involved in. Whether it is a motorcycle accident, car accident, truck accident, defective product  or any type of litigation, keep these thoughts in mind.
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