Here at Estey & Bomberger, LLP, we charge our clients based on a contingency fee. In its most basic form, a contingency fee simply means that an attorney’s fee is based on the condition that your case wins at trial. If you win a sum of money in a personal injury action, for example, your lawyer will get a certain percentage of the profit. If you lose the case, the attorney will not make a profit.
In addition, a lawsuit also entails filing fees and court-related expenses. All of this comes with a price that often has to be paid regardless of the fee arrangement. What you, as the client, do not have to pay for in a contingency fee arrangement is the attorney’s fee for the time he or she time spent on your case.
Contingency fees are prohibited in certain kinds of cases, such as divorce cases, and are capped by some courts in terms of the amount of a payout or percentage an attorney can obtain. Despite this, contingency fees are a great way to structure payments for personal injury related cases. Clients who may otherwise not be able to afford a lawyer can obtain representation under this system.
There is no set percentage that attorneys use to calculate their contingency fee. It can vary from 20 percent to 50 percent. It depends on the jurisdiction, and a number of other factors, including the time and labor required in the case, the difficulty of the case, the fee normally charged in the jurisdiction, the amount of money involved, the time limitations surrounding the case and circumstances, the professional relationship between the client and the attorney, and the experience and reputation of the attorney.
In California, according to the California Rules of Professional Conduct, a lawyer cannot agree to charge or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses.
Anytime you want establish a fee arrangement with your attorney, make sure that everything is agreed to before your lawsuit begins. You should also make sure that you get all terms agreed to in writing. This is especially important when considering different percentages for the contingent fee depending on how the case settles. A client may be able to arrange for a different fee depending on if the case goes to court or is settled by the opposing party or insurance company. Settling the case before trial still requires a significant amount of legal work for an attorney, but it will not take as much time as a trial.