Responsible, ethical attorneys encourage their clients to discuss their concerns about fees and costs. When it is not possible to quote an exact fee or determine the costs of a case, attorneys usually attempt to estimate such amounts as accurately as circumstances permit and will explain how fees are calculated for all services as well as work out a fee payment schedule. Fees and costs for many matters can be estimated with accuracy at the time of the initial consultation. For instance, in forming limited liability companies or partnerships, preparing leases, or simple wills and trusts, most attorneys are able to determine from the information provided by the client, the amount of work required and quote a fee at the first meeting. In addition, the cost of filing fees and documentation in the formation of entities is known and therefore an accurate cost can be estimated before work is commenced. Some things, such as estate planning, forming offshore companies and trusts, require an extensive review of the client’s needs, assets, research and perhaps association with other specialized attorneys. In these types of legal matters it is more difficult to estimate for the client the total fees and costs of the final product. However, once the client’s assets and needs have been analyzed, a reasonably accurate projection can usually be made and prospective clients should ask for one. It seems to have become common knowledge that personal injury cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, ranging from 1/3 to 40% and more of any recovery made for the client, depending on local custom. While it may be a common practice, it is not required. Personal injury cases may be handled on a straight fee or even an hourly fee basis. But, since injury cases often take years to settle or get to a jury, the most beneficial method of paying your lawyer is the contingency arrangement. A contingency fee is usually in addition to cost expended. Cost often include expert witnesses such as a doctor, an engineer, a CPA or even specialized forensic sciences. These can be very expensive, so it is important that clients be well informed as to anticipated cost of their case and should discuss this issue with their attorneys. Although the 1/3 contingency fee is most often what attorneys require in the employment contracts, prospective clients should know that the contingency percentage can be negotiated with your attorney. If the attorney wants your case, he or she will most likely be open to discussing a contingency fee less than normally charged in your locality. It certainly does not hurt to ask!
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