How to pay for a lawyer in the US

Paying for legal advice in the US can be expensive. Here are some tips on how it works. 

According to, the average cost of attorneys in the US is between $100-$300 per hour.

An “attorney’s fee” is a term often used in the U.S. in reference to the compensation for legal services performed by a lawyer or a law firm for their clients, inside and outside of a court. Generally, a lawyer will bill hourly, on contingency, on retainer, or with a flat fee.

The first and the most important question you need to be asking is what sort or what kind of billing structure your lawyer uses after finding out how much the upfront cost is.

An hourly rate is simply the amount your lawyer will charge you per hour. You may also be billed for the work of your lawyer’s paralegals and support staff at a reduced cost.

Contingency means that your lawyer will take a percentage of your winnings from a civil case. Only such cases can be billed on a contingency basis.

If you give your lawyer a retainer, this means you’ve provided them a lump sum upfront to work on your case. Although this doesn’t necessarily mean that no further charges will be incurred. As long as your legal proceedings continue, it’s best if you expect some more legal-related charges.

A flat fee is when your lawyer will tell you a certain amount of money upfront and you will pay this for the entirety of the case. Matters dealt this way are often quite simple.

Lawyers tend to work less hard on behalf of their clients which often leads to getting unideal outcomes when they charge a flat-rate fee instead of hourly billing. Such fees are different and separate from fines, court costs (except in Nevada), and compensatory and punitive damages in legal proceedings.

In accordance with the American rule, attorney fees aren’t paid by the losing party to the winning party in a legal proceeding—unless pursuant to contractual or statutory rights.

The rates of attorney charges and fees vary in nature and significantly depending on the type of case, location, and the preferred billing structure. Some lawyers use sliding scales and some others use a set hourly rate. With this said, lawyers generally may charge different sets of clients with different amounts even while they have similar circumstances.

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