How much a lawyer costs would depend on the type of work involved. Generally, a lawyer would charge in three ways:
- Flat fee
In an hourly billing, the lawyer will charge you per hour worked. When a lawyer answers your email, does legal research, writes a pleading, or discusses your case with associates to prepare a legal strategy, these activities all count as hours worked. Usually, the lawyer will ask you to sign a retainer agreement, which is a downpayment for the hours worked. The retainer fee is deposited in a trust account. As the lawyer works and bills you, the amount of hours worked and billed will be taken from the retainer fee. When the retainer fee is exhausted, the lawyer will request for a new deposit so work in the case can continue.
Hourly rates will depend on the location, the type of work, and the experience of the lawyer. New lawyers charge a lower hourly rate than older lawyers with more experience in a particular area of practice. The type of work can also influence the hourly rate. Sometimes, lawyers working in traffic offenses might charge lower than lawyers working in trusts, wills, and estates. The most influential factor, however, in the hourly rate is the location. Lawyers practicing in a rural area will have lower hourly rates than lawyers practicing in a metropolitan area, such as New York City. In New York, hourly rates range from $250 to $500 per hour.
Lawyers will charge a flat fee on certain types of work, especially work where the hours are controllable. Flat-fee work usually occurs in contract drafting, drafting of wills and trusts, uncontested divorces, real estate closings of single family homes, apartments, condos, or coops. In these cases, the lawyer generally does not deal with an adversary, where hours can be dragged on longer. A lawyer can typically forecast how many hours it will take to draft a will, an employment contract, or a shareholders agreement. In the same way, a lawyer can foresee how much time it will take to handle an uncontested divorce where both parties agree on all issues regarding the divorce and the lawyer’s job is to handle the preparation of documents and filing. However, once a divorce becomes contested and issues arise regarding custody or division of marital property, the flat fee proposed will not apply anymore. This is because a contested divorce will require more hours, talking with the client, negotiating with the opposing counsel, and appearing before the court.
Here are some examples of flat rate fees to give you an idea of how much certain legal work in New York costs:
- Drafting of wills, durable medical power of attorney, health care proxy: $1200
- Drafting of trusts: $5000
- Drafting of employment contract, articles of organization, or other business-related standard documents: $5,000
- Uncontested divorce: $2,000
- Real estate closings for single family homes, condos or coops: $1,500
Lawyers will charge contingency fees in high stakes cases where your case is strong and large amounts may be awarded, such as personal injury, insurance, and medical malpractice cases. Here, the client does not pay any upfront amount, but if the lawyer is able to successfully recover any award or settlement for the client, the lawyer will be entitled to an amount equivalent to 30 to 40% of what has been recovered plus its legal fees and other expenses.
Hiring a lawyer is expensive. However, there are times when it is inevitable, especially when you need to protect and preserve your rights. A good lawyer will be able to explain to you the costs that a case might entail and advise you on the most cost-effective way to achieve your objectives, whether outside of or through litigation.
Should you need assistance, we, at the law offices of Albert Goodwin, are here for you. We have offices in New York, NY, Brooklyn, NY and Queens, NY. You can call us at 718-509-9774 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.