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What You Should Know About Attorney's Fees

Frequently fees are not discussed early enough, candidly enough, or in enough detail even though fees are an important part of the attorney-client relationship. Often, attorneys spend the least amount of time with their clients discussing fees. Why? Generally, because the discussion can be uncomfortable for both the client and the attorney. We have put together this page in our website to address the most frequently asked questions about attorneys' fees and costs.

What are attorneys’ fees?

Simply, attorneys’ fees are the money paid to the attorney or the law firm for time spent working on a client's case. It is important to remember that attorneys’ fees are not the same as costs associated with a case. The best way to think about costs is to assume that a cost is anything we have to write a check for. This might include expert witness fees, medical records fees, copying costs, mail, telephone, runner’s fees, notary fees, etc. Costs are calculated separately and are usually in addition to fees.

For example, an Attorney A representing Mr. Smith prepares a letter on Mr. Smith's behalf. Attorney A spends a total of two hours writing the letter at an hourly fee of $150.00 per hour. The attorneys' fees for preparing the letter are $300.00. In addition, Attorney A photocopies the 10 page letter 3 times at a cost of $.25 per page. Mr. Smith's costs for Attorney A preparing the letter are $7.50 or 10 pages multiplied by 3 at a cost of $.25 per page. The total expense to Mr. Smith is $307.50.

How are attorney's fees decided?

Most lawyers will ask every client to sign a written agreement (a.k.a. fee agreement, fee contract) that describes how the attorneys' fees will be determined. Depending on the type of case you have, the fee may be calculated on a contingency basis, an hourly basis, a flat fee or some combination thereof.

What is a contingency fee and what will you charge me?

A true contingency fee means that attorneys' fees are not paid until you win your case or your case settles. If there is no recovery, there are no attorneys' fees. If there is a recovery, the attorneys' fees are a percentage of the amount recovered on the case. Please note that costs are different than fees and costs are usually compensated after the total award is reduced by the contingency fee. Contingency fees are usually offered in cases involving accidents, personal injury, wrongful death or a collection case. The State Bar of Nevada prohibits attorneys from accepting a contingency fee in criminal cases, divorces and bankruptcy cases.

Fees are very difficult to predict and often depend on the facts of the case, the cooperation of the other side, the cooperation of the client, the availability and type of experts required, the speed with which the matter may move through the judicial system, and a number of other factors. The contingent percentage will vary depending upon specifics of your legal matter. 

What is a flat fee?

A flat fee is when the lawyer charges you a specific total fee for your case. Often the total bill is the flat fee plus costs or out-of-pocket expenses. 

How do I avoid "sticker shock" when I talk to you about fees?

A free lawyer for everyone would be great but is unrealistic. Many clients are not prepared for the "sticker shock" associated with a lawsuit. To prepare yourself for that initial quote for legal representation, ask yourself the following questions before you meet with an attorney: (1) How much can you afford? (2) Is it a routine matter or does it require special expertise? (3) What is the range of attorney rates for this type of case in your area? (4) How much work can you do on the case? Once you have answered these questions for yourself, you should have a pretty good idea about what you are willing to pay an attorney for legal services. If the attorney is significantly more expensive than you expected, you may be able to negotiate the fee, if the attorney is willing to do so.

What if I find out I cannot afford an attorney?

If you are concerned that you may not be able to afford an attorney, there are several options available to you. If you met with an attorney you liked and trusted, talk to the attorney to see if they will negotiate their fee. Some attorneys will agree to reduce their fee or allow you to make payments if you cannot afford the attorneys' services up-front.

If you cannot find an attorney, call the Nevada State Bar at (702) 382-2200 and ask for the reduced fee attorney-referral service. The referral service can match attorneys to clients who qualify for reduced fee attorney services. In addition, Clark County has a Pro Bono Project for qualified applicants.

Can I Get Fees From The Other Side If I Win?

There is no way to know whether you will be able to get your attorneys' fees back from the other side if you win. The award of attorneys' fees at the end of a case is usually within the discretion of the Court. Therefore, there is no way to predict whether you will ever recover attorneys' fees from the other side if you win. Furthermore, you should not count on recovering attorneys' fees from the other side when you consult an attorney.

If you or someone you know needs an attorney, call us today at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form for more information.


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