How Much Does an Employment Attorney Cost? [2024] Staff Profile Picture
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According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against job applicants and employees, there are thousands of cases of employment discrimination every year in the United States. Recent data shows that in 2019, 61% of American employees (three out of five) said they had witnessed or personally experienced workplace discrimination. When it comes to these violations, seeking the help of a qualified employment attorney is likely the quickest and most efficient path toward reaching an appropriate resolution for employees and employers alike. 

Do I Need an Employment Attorney?

There are many reasons a person might decide to hire an employment attorney. As much as one might wish that all work environments would be safe, fair, and welcoming for everyone, the fact is that violations in the workplace happen every day. Whether it be due to unfair hiring practices, gender pay gaps, sexual harassment, OSHA violations, or wrongful termination, there are many examples of illegal workplace practices that could lead to a lawsuit. As an employee, it can be daunting to consider filing a lawsuit against an employer. Knowing your rights and how to stand up for them may feel overwhelming. Here are some of the more common reasons people are discriminated against in the workplace: 

  • Age 

  • Color 

  • Disability 

  • Equal Pay Act 

  • Gender 

  • National Origin 

  • Race 

  • Religion 

  • Retaliation 

If you feel you’ve been discriminated against and aren’t sure what next steps to take, consulting an employment lawyer may be a good idea.

Employment Lawyer Costs: What to Expect

When thinking about filing a lawsuit, one of the first questions that probably springs to mind is, “How much does it cost for a good employment lawyer?” This is a complicated question, as employment lawyer costs are dependent on multiple factors, such as their skills and reputation, where they are located, and the details of your particular case. Every lawyer will have their own

preferred payment structure, but typically you can expect to pay either a contingency fee, an hourly fee, or a flat fee rate. Each of these payment structures, as well as other costs you may be faced with, are detailed below. 

Initial Consultation Fee

Before you commit to a lawyer, you may want to meet with them first to make sure they are the right fit for you and your needs. Some lawyers offer free consultations for new clients, but this is not a guarantee. You could find yourself paying a consultation fee to compensate them for their time. On average, depending on their level of expertise, you can expect to pay anywhere between $150-$350 an hour just for that initial consultation. 

Contingency Fee

Sometimes a lawyer will agree to work for a contingency fee. This type of arrangement means that you will not pay your lawyer up front, nor will you commit to an hourly rate, and you will only pay something if your case is not successful. Instead, their payment will be contingent on whether or not you win your case and how much compensation you receive if you do. In the event of a settlement or successful litigation, your lawyer will receive a percentage of what you recover. The percentage a lawyer receives in contingency arrangements differs from attorney to attorney, but generally, you can expect it to be between 20% and 50% of the recovery amount. 


A disbursement is money spent on behalf of another person that will need to be repaid at some point in the future. Lawyers often have cause to pay fees on behalf of their clients for such things as filing, courier services, expert testimony, collecting medical reports, paying researchers, etc. Depending on how long litigation lasts, these things can add up. With a contingency fee, even though you are not expected to pay your lawyer unless you win or settle, you will likely still be expected to reimburse your lawyer for disbursements. 

Hourly Fee

Often, especially when representing employers in workplace lawsuits, attorneys will request to simply be paid by their hourly rate. An attorney’s hourly rate will depend on their experience and expertise and may range anywhere from $100 an hour on the low end to $1000 an hour on the high end. 

Retainer Fee

If you are paying your attorney by the hour, you may also be expected to pay a retainer fee. This is essentially a downpayment to reserve their services. A retainer agreement will typically encompass either a specific case or a predetermined time frame. As your lawyer does work on your case, they will bill you for that work. Then they will collect their payment from the retainer fee you paid up front. Whether or not you are reimbursed for any unused portions of your fee will depend on your retainer agreement. If a case takes a long time or costs more than originally expected, you may be asked to pay more than one retainer fee. 

Flat Rate Fee

Though not as common, occasionally, for a simpler case, a lawyer may charge a one-time, flat fee for their services instead of billing by the hour or working on contingency. The cost of such an arrangement will vary from lawyer to lawyer. The cost of such an arrangement will vary from lawyer to lawyer. A flat rate can be beneficial to someone who cannot afford to pay a lawyer’s high hourly rates. However, if a case takes only a little time to resolve, you may find that you paid more than you would have if you had paid by the hour. 

Court Costs and Administrative Fees

Court costs are fees collected to cover payment for things like jurors and court employees needed throughout your case, such as a court reporter (stenographer). Administrative fees are just what they sound like. Every bit of paper your lawyer prints details about your case on, every postage stamp used to mail important court documents, every time their gas tank is refilled to travel to and from the courthouse, all of these things add up, and you can expect to be billed for them. Administrative fees can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the amount of time litigation takes. 

Legal Resources for Employees 

If you find yourself in a workplace situation that requires litigation, even with the help of an employment attorney, the path to justice may be long and stressful. You may be unsure of where to begin when it comes to filing your employment lawsuit. Depending on the nature of your grievance(s), you may also need help with filing for unemployment or temporary benefits or finding a new job. Or you may just want some quick answers to legal questions about your situation. Help with all of this can be found online. 

Filing your Claim with the EEOC

Check out the official website of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for guidance on how and when to file a charge of employment discrimination with them. 

For more contact information, go here. 

Filing for Unemployment and Job Searching 

If your situation leaves you needing to file for unemployment, the steps will differ from state to state. You can find information about how to do so here: 

A quick Google search will take you to a list of trusted online job search engines, resume builder sites, and interview preparation tips. Remember that if you are looking for a new job, you may be legally bound not to discuss the details of your employment lawsuit. 

Disability and Temporary Disability Benefits

If your employment claim revolves around an injury, depending on several factors, such as the nature and severity of your injuries, your age, your financial status, and whether or not you are able to continue working, you may be eligible for government-funded disability benefits that can help with finances while you await the results of your lawsuit. 

If you meet the following requirements, you may qualify for SSDI benefits

  • You are unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in death.

  • Your disability is not partial or short term.

  • You meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability.

  • You are younger than your full retirement age.

For SSI benefits, the following requirements must be met: 

  • For Adults: 

    • Are aged 65 and older, blind, or have a disability.

    • Have limited income (wages, pensions, etc.). 

    • Have limited resources (the things you own). 

    • Are U.S. citizens, nationals of the U.S., and some noncitizens. 

Reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands. It does not include Puerto Rico, Guam, or the United States Virgin Islands. Exception: The children of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty outside the U.S. and certain students temporarily abroad may receive SSI payments outside the U.S. 

  • For Children: 

    • Are under age 18 and have a physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limits their daily activities for 12 months or more or may be expected to result in death.

    • Live in a household with limited income (benefits based on need) or resources.

To determine which benefits you may qualify for, you can reach the program at 1-800-772-1213 or go to

Legal Aid

The American Bar Association Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic that provides an online version of the walk-in clinic model. Users may request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer by posting their civil legal questions to their state’s website. Lawyers will follow up with basic legal advice and information, without the expectation of long-term representation. This is an excellent resource for people seeking advice and information about non-criminal legal matters but cannot afford a lawyer. 

You can contact the ABA through the ABA Service Center Hotline at (800) 285-2221 or email them at, Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM ET.

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