How Much Does a Litigation Attorney Cost? [2024] Staff Profile Picture
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There are over 247,000 litigation attorneys currently employed in the United States alone. With so many lawyers to choose from, it can be challenging to find the right attorney. Cost is one of the biggest barriers to hiring a quality legal professional. Litigation costs are the fees spent pursuing or defending a legal claim or litigation. Litigation expenses may be substantial and can vary widely according to the complexity of the case. These charges can include attorney’s fees, court filing fees, expert witness fees, and other costs associated with case preparation and presentation. Before you sign an agreement with your attorney, make sure that the scope of their legal work and fees are confirmed in writing.  

Do I Need a Litigation Attorney?

In an ideal world, you would call a lawyer before encountering legal trouble. A litigation attorney seeks compensation for their clients in civil cases. However, preventative legal help is not always possible, which is why it is crucial to take some careful steps before choosing a lawyer. A referral from a trusted source, like a family member or friend, is one of the best ways to select an attorney. If a referral is impractical, you can research attorneys through your local bar association, which can help protect you from scammers who will take your money and run. You can also search for the best litigation attorneys here who have been vetted already by Expertise staff. 

Whether you are pursuing or defending a case, experienced counsel is a necessity.  Disputes between parties can escalate quickly once a lawsuit is filed. Litigation is highly unpredictable and challenging to navigate if you aren’t familiar with the legal process. A strong litigation attorney can help you understand your rights and solve problems as they arise. 

Litigation Lawyer Costs: What To Expect

Billing is a common source of confusion among lawyers and clients alike. The typical cost of litigation services will fluctuate based on their practice area, locality, and the lawyer’s background and expertise. During your initial consultation, ask your attorney for a general estimate based on their past experience. At the appointment, ask the lawyer any questions about your case, including specific questions about their fee schedule and retainers. The average cost of litigation ranges greatly depending on the kind of lawsuit and the jurisdiction in which the case is tried. Generally, simpler cases may be less expensive than more complex ones. Cases resolved out of court may be less costly than cases that go to trial. After an initial consultation, your lawyer should be able to offer an average cost. Litigation expenses may include all of the following: 

  • Case preparation and presentation 

  • Attorney fees 

  • Court fees 

  • Process Servers

  • Deposition costs 

  • Expert Witness fees 

  • Travel expenses 

  • Office services (copying and production) 

Fee schedule

While your attorney may not be able to forecast the exact amount of time and effort necessary for your case, they should be able to provide a general estimate at your first consultation. Most attorneys will charge one of the following types of fee structures: 

Standard or Fixed Fee 

Used most often in routine legal matters, a fixed fee is an established rate that a lawyer charges all their clients. For example, an attorney may charge all clients the same set rate to handle an uncontested divorce. A fixed fee rate has specific exclusions, so it is wise to understand what the fixed fee includes before signing an agreement. 

Hourly fee

According to The National Law Review, most attorneys charge by the hour. The hourly rate can vary from lawyer to lawyer. In the United States, hourly rates can range from $200 to over $400, depending on the jurisdiction and case complexity. More experienced attorneys will command a higher hourly rate. To get a cost estimate for your case, ask your lawyer to estimate the hours your case will take. Of course, the legal system is unpredictable, and circumstances may change, leading to surprise costs.

Usually, under fixed fee and hourly fee structures, your attorney will also ask for a “retainer,” which serves as an advance on future legal work. Retainers are held in special client trust accounts. These funds do not belong to the lawyer until the lawyer earns the fee through working on the case. Your attorney should be transparent with you regarding the work performed and the fees charged. 

Contingency Fee 

A contingency fee arrangement is most often used in personal injury, accidents, and similar cases when you are suing someone for money. This kind of fee structure means that you will pay the lawyer a certain percentage of the final compensation. Whether you win your case or settle out of court, a contingency fee allows your attorney to receive payment directly from the money you receive at the conclusion of your case. On the other hand, if you lose the case, your lawyer does not receive a fee. Either way, you will be responsible for any court costs and other expenses. Other expenses include medical bills, doctor's liens, and additional miscellaneous costs. These charges can be quite high depending on your case’s circumstances. All contingency fee agreements must be in writing. Before agreeing to a contingency fee arrangement, ask your attorney for an estimate and ensure the written fee structure specifies what your lawyer’s percentage is and how that percentage will be deducted. At the end of the day, your lawyer should provide clear and consistent updates as to how and where your money is spent. 

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