Legal Edge: what to know when hiring an attorney

Legal Edge

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – When someone needs a lawyer, one of their biggest concerns is usually “can I afford one?” Local attorney Bryan Waldman has some advice.

“Lawyers aren’t going to be offended if you talk to them about their fees… They should expect it,” said Waldman.

“Don’t be afraid.”

The most common way a lawyer is paid is hourly. There’s usually a retainer fee, which is like a down payment.

Each lawyer has a different hourly rate, and a higher hourly rate doesn’t necessarily result in a higher bill.

“Some lawyers are more efficient than others,” said Waldman.

Talking to a lawyer about their experience is usually a good way to measure their efficiency, said Waldman.

There are alternate billing methods, such as flat fees, which usually apply to simple matters where the attorney knows exactly how long the work will take.

“It lets the client know exactly what they’re going to have to pay throughout the whole process,” said Waldman.

Contingency fees are a little different.

A contingency fee is a method of payment that usually only occurs in lawsuits where the plaintiff is seeking monetary compensation. If a lawyer is being paid via a contingency fee, the attorney is paid through a percentage of the winnings rather than a flat fee or hourly.

That means if $0 is recovered in the suit, then the lawyer isn’t paid.

“It’s a nice way to know that the lawyer and the client is on the same page,” said Waldman.

Waldman also advises those seeking representation to look out for other fees, such as filing fees, court reporters, transcript fees, and expert witness fees.

It’s perfectly acceptable to ask about these fees up front, said Waldman.

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