CHARGING A SET FEE
There are some instances in which lawyers charge a set fee for a service rendered. These might include a simple will, a land contract, or a mortgage and promissory note.
CHARGING A CONTINGENT FEE
There are other instances in which a lawyer might represent the client on a contingent fee basis. In such cases the lawyer’s fee consists of a percentage of the award recovered for the client. Representation on this basis occurs often in personal injury cases in which clients are suing for money. This method of fee calculation is common in situations in which the client would be unable to finance a relatively complicated negotiation or law suit unless the fee were based on the amount recovered at the conclusion of the case. Such cases may demand as much as two or three hundred hours worth of the lawyer’s time. If clients had to compensate their lawyer in advance of the settlement of such a case, many of them could not afford their pursuit of justice in the courts. In many instances the contingent fee is the only practical way clients can afford legal representation in complicated matters.
The settlement of a decedent’s estate is another instance in which the lawyer’s fee may be determined on a percentage basis.
PAYING A RETAINER
At the present time, for many kinds of legal representation, including most law suits and negotiations, the client pays the lawyer a “retainer” and an escrow deposit at the beginning of the case. Once the retainer is paid, the client secures the lawyer’s services under the terms of a fee agreement which may be put in writing. The lawyer will then keep track of the time spent on the case. Should the time multiplied by the hourly rate exceed the retainer and escrow deposit, the client will need to pay the excess. The client will ordinarily receive a monthly billing for any amount due over and above the retainer and escrow.
Our monthly billings are handled on a computer, which does the mathematical computations based upon the time involved. The monthly bills are payable upon receipt. When the client fails to compensate the lawyer upon receipt of the monthly statements, the lawyer might resign from representation of the client for non-payment. It is important that the client’s monthly bill be paid regularly and promptly.
PAYING THE LAWYER’S BILL
Lawyers are not bankers. They sell legal services, not the use of money. If a client does not have the funds promptly to pay the lawyer’s bill, the money should be borrowed from another source and the lawyer paid in full. In this way, clients who need to “make payments” can make them to a bank, which is in the business of making loans to those in need of them.