Long or short term?
Area of law
Are they highly regarded?
- View lawyer profiles
- See their specializations
- Read reviews from their clients
Size of firm
Cost and billing
- An hourly rate : In this case, you’ll be billed per hour the lawyer works on your case—including for phone calls and meetings. Depending on how complex your case is, this can add up to be quite costly.
- A retainer for future fees : Lawyers that charge hourly rates may also require a retainer fee at the beginning to cover a set number of hours. (There’s no standard retainer fee, as lawyers set this themselves.) This money must be held in a trust account, where the lawyer keeps all funds owned by their clients ‘on trust’ for those clients. When the lawyer invoices their client, the lawyer will then pay themselves from the money held in trust for that client and move that money to their office account. If the lawyer works more hours than what’s covered by the retainer, you’ll be billed any outstanding fees.
- A flat fee : The client pays an upfront fee, which may be expensive at first (but, depending on your case, could save you money in the long run).
- A contingency fee : The client isn’t charged if the attorney loses the case. However, if the attorney wins, they’ll keep a percentage of the court-awarded winnings. You and the lawyer should establish this percentage from the start.
- A negotiable fee : Some lawyers are willing to negotiate their rates. For instance, you might agree to an hourly rate but request a fee cap. Or, if they bill at 15-minute intervals, you might ask them to charge at 6-minute intervals instead. This can save you money when you only need to speak with your lawyer briefly on the phone. In any case, it helps to review the lawyer’s billing methods and see where they’re able to be flexible.