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What if I can’t afford to pay the legal fees up front?

What if I Can’t Afford to Pay the Legal Fees Up Front?

If you have found yourself in need of legal representation, you may also be in a position at which you cannot afford to pay legal fees up front. You may feel that you are in something of a proverbial catch-22. You may now wonder what to do if you cannot afford to pay the legal fees up front?

Overview of Attorney Fees Generally

There are three basic types of fee arrangements utilized by attorneys in the United States, as well as in many other countries around the world. These fee arrangements are:

  • hourly fee
  • contingency fee
  • flat fee

An hourly fee arrangement is fairly self explanatory. You pay a set amount for the time a lawyer spends working on your legal matter. A contingency fee oftentimes is used in family law and divorce cases, business cases, and criminal cases.

A contingency fee is one in which you pay a portion of any settlement or judgment in your case. A contingency fee is something of a performance-based fee arrangements. It is used in a personal injury case. It is prohibited in family law and divorce and criminal cases. It can be utilized in certain types of business-related cases.

Finally, a flat fee arrangement is also fairly self explanatory. You pay one fee no matter how much time an attorney ends up devoting to your legal matter. Typically, the flat fee is paid at the commencement of the legal representation.

Understanding a Retainer

In cases in which an hourly fee is being utilized, you are more than likely to be called upon to pay what is called a retainer upfront. A retainer is something of a deposit for legal services to be rendered in the future by a lawyer.

As the lawyer does work on your behalf, he or she draws from the retainer to satisfy the time spent working on the case. Technically, an attorney is required to keep a contingency fee in a separate account.

Upfront Payment Issue

You are not alone if you feel you lack the ability to come up with money to pay your attorney to commence representation of you. This usually occurs in a situation in which a lawyer is charging a flat or an hourly fee. In other words, you are being called upon to pay the flat fee of the retainer for your case.

Communication is Key

The key to a successful attorney-client relationship really is communication. If you are in a position where you do not feel you can come up with the full amount necessary for a flat fee or retainer, be honest and candid. Keep in mind that an attorney will not start work on your behalf until the fee issue is resolved. Dilly-dallying on the fee issue can jeopardize your legal interests.

By taking a proactive stance in regard to your fee situation, you may be able to work out an arrangement with the attorney of your choice. You lack that option if you are not honest and forthright about your situation.

Possible Solutions

In some cases, a lawyer may be willing to develop an installment payment arrangement for your fee in a particular case. If there is such a willingness, you must be absolutely certain to agree to an arrangement you know you will be able to keep.

An installment fee payment arrangement may be possible in both an hourly and flat fee situation. You are likely to be required to pay at least some amount upfront in order for the lawyer to commence work on your case.

In some cases in which an hourly fee is being charged, an attorney may be willing to forgo a retainer. This may be a possibility if the legal matter at hand is not likely to take a great deal of time. However, with that said, you must be certain that you are able to pay fees as statements on your account become due.

Shop Around Before Making a Decision on Representation

Attorneys have different policies regarding fees and payments. By taking the time to shop around in advance of even scheduling an initial consultation with a lawyer, you will have a better idea of what is and is not available to you in regard to attorney fee arrangements.

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