It’s a common misconception, likely attributable to television dramas, that all lawyers have large conference rooms and rake in money hand over fist. Most misconceptions about lawyers’ rates come from a lack of understanding of the various structures and billing methods particular to the legal field. In this post, because we are Florida estate planners, we focus on common types of Florida estate planning legal fees and in the process cover the three most common fee structures you may face if you find yourself in need of a lawyer.
Different Types of Estate Planning Legal Fees in Florida
Billed by the Hour: The Lawyer’s Classic Fee Structure
Hourly billing is a simple and traditional method for tracking and charging clients based on the amount of time spent working on various tasks. When entering into an agreement for hourly fees your attorney will quote you, the client, their rate, as well as the rates of any other lawyers or support staff in their practice that may be working on your case.
Bills for hourly work will be itemized with time spent on each aspect of your case carefully tracked. Hourly rates will usually be billed in 6 minute increments, so no need to worry about that 12-minute phone call being rounded up to an entire hour. This type of billing works well for fluid situations where exact time and services needed is unknown at the outset of your dispute. Hourly billing is usually used by business lawyers, family law lawyers, and insurance defense attorneys.
Flat Fee Arrangements in Florida Estate Planning: The Wave of the Future
Flat fee arrangements are an increasingly popular form of billing among lawyers. Certain routine tasks such as preparing a last will in Florida, drafting business documents in Florida or preparing a standard motion in a litigation matter, lend themselves better to flat fee billing. Criminal defense, business planning lawyers in Florida, and Florida estate planning lawyers will generally see dozens if not hundreds of these types of tasks over the course of a year. Attorneys in these areas have a general idea of the amount of time each assignment will take and can average that to create their set fee they will charge for any given service. Simplicity in billing and the ability to provide their client with a known fee make flat fee arrangements popular in appropriate scenarios.
Contingency Fee Cases: Big Risks
The last type of billing arrangement is the situation in which the amount of legal fees are dependent, or contingent, on the dollar amount of your recovery. These types of agreements are known as contingency fee cases. Personal injury lawyers are the most frequent users of this type of billing method and for good reason. Costs associated with bringing a personal injury case can often exceed the financial means of the individual plaintiff. With medical bills racking up, few individuals have the liquid funds needed to pay for doctor’s evaluations, expert witnesses or other specialized evaluations, deposition costs, much less the cost of filing a lawsuit on top of hourly fees for a lawyer. Personal injury lawyers will take on these cases without receiving any compensation up front, carrying the financial risks, with the promise of receiving a set percentage of the award or settlement. This scenario can create a win-win for both the plaintiff and the attorney.
General Considerations Concerning Legal Fees in Florida
In addition to rates and type of billing used, your lawyer will also discuss additional fees for reimbursement of expenses such as court filings, expert costs, or travel costs. Regardless of what type of fee arrangement you enter, you should feel free to ask all the questions you have at the outset of your case.
Steve Gibbs, Esq.