Are You Paying Too Much in Attorney Fees?

When you hire an attorney, you will most likely enter into one of three types of fee agreements:

  1. flat fee
  2. hourly fee
  3. contingency fee

In a contingency fee agreement, your attorney will only get paid if you win your case. Typically you will agree to allow the attorney to take 25 – 50% of your case value once it is successfully settled in or out of court. This type of arrangement is popular for personal injury cases like car accidents and medical malpractice. It is unethical and not permitted for an attorney to enter a contingency fee agreement for some cases like criminal matters.

In an hourly fee agreement an attorney will bill you only for the time and expenses spent on your case, typically at 6 minute or 15 minute increments. For example, if you call your attorney and speak to her for 5 minutes, that call will be billed to you as either 6 minutes or 15 minutes of the attorney’s hourly rate. A client will generally pay a large retainer to start the case. That money is deposited into a trust account and the attorney can only draw from it as work is done. Any money remaining when the case is completed must be refunded to the client.

Many criminal and immigration attorneys choose to charge a flat fee. This means the attorney will estimate how much your case will cost, then require either full payment up front or a partial payment coupled with monthly payments over a fixed period of time. The positive aspect of this set up is that the client knows from the start how much the case will cost. However, the downside is that due to the fact that an attorney must estimate the cost of the case, the estimate will always be in favor of the attorney. In other words, the client will generally end up paying more than he should.

Let’s say you agree to pay a flat fee of $3,000 for an adjustment of status through your U.S. citizen spouse (green card application). At the end of the case you realize that the time spent on your case was around five hours total. Divide $3,000 by five and that means you paid $600 per hour!

Molina Law Group initially did flat fee agreements with all clients. However, we are finding that it is very difficult to set an accurate average fee when each case is so different. Some cases are straightforward and only require a few hours of work. Other cases take many, many hours to do right. Let’s take the same example above of a $3,000 flat fee. What if the case encounters complications along the way and ends up taking 50 hours. That equals $60/hour. The client may feel that this is a great deal, however the attorney feels she has lost money and as a result may feel less motivated to do the best work possible.

For these reasons, Molina Law Group now prefers to enter into an hourly fee agreement with most of our clients. We offer reasonable payment plans to assist our clients who may have not been prepared to fight an immigration or criminal case.

Do you want the best financial deal coupled with the best quality work? Do your research and hire an attorney with a great reputation who is willing to charge you a reasonable hourly fee. Molina Law Group would be honored to serve you.

This post is also available in: Spanish