Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability?

Need an Estimate from an Attorney for His or Her Services? Cost Can Be Difficult to Determine

Deann Miles

Most people know that personal injury attorneys usually work on a contingency fee basis, but what about attorneys who handle other types of cases? Understanding how legal fees work can help you estimate your costs and make sure that you stay within your budget. This is what you should know.

1.) Some cases are easier than others to give an estimate for.

If your prospective attorney doesn't seem like he or she can give you an estimate, it isn't because he or she is being shifty or trying to cheat you. Some cases are fairly easy to give an estimate on because they're pretty routine and one case looks a lot like the next. 

For example, an attorney who handles mayor's court where speeding tickets and other traffic violations are heard may be able to offer you a flat fee. An attorney who handles a lot of "drunk and disorderly" charges, particularly in a town known for that sort of activity, like Las Vegas or Fort Lauderdale, can also probably tell you upfront what he or she will charge.

However, many cases aren't so simple, and an attorney doesn't have any clear way of assessing how long the case is going to take, so he or she may not be able to give you a fee on the spot.

2.) A flat fee may not be to your advantage.

Unlike other professions, attorneys can't always predict how long a case is going to take to settle. A case that looks simple could turn out to be very complex and take up hours and hours of the attorney's time. On the other hand, what looks complex could turn out to be much easier than anticipated and get resolved at the very first meeting. In that situation, a flat fee is to your disadvantage because the attorney will have charged you based on the time he or she anticipated spending on your case, instead of the time he or she actually spent.

For example, your divorce attorney could charge you a flat fee of $10,000 based on what he or she expects to happen. If your spouse turns around and simply signs the paperwork and walks away without a fight, you'll have spent unnecessary money on the legal fees.

3.) Your location and your attorney's experience are part of the cost.

Location and experience are two "soft" factors that influence how much your attorney is going to charge. An attorney in a big city, for example, is likely to charge more than an attorney in a small town. Smaller law firms generally are less expensive than larger firms because they have less overhead. A lawyer with 10 years worth of experience as a prosecutor who is now working criminal defense is going to cost more per hour than an attorney who barely has his or her foot out of law school. 

4.) Attorneys try to make it as fair as possible to everyone.

There are several different ways attorneys try to make their fees easier for clients to afford and fairer to everyone involved—including the attorney. Just like you don't want to pay unnecessary money for services that aren't ever used, the attorney doesn't want to spend hours on a case for free. These are some common fee agreements:

  • Billable hours: You pay the attorney for the service by the hour. It's important to find out in advance if you agree to this type of fee schedule, whether the attorney charges by the full hour, half hour, quarter hour, or some other system. That can make a huge difference in your final costs. An attorney who charges $100 an hour but rounds up to each half hour will charge you $150 for 1 hour and 1 minute of work. An attorney who charges the same but bills in 10-minute increments would charge you $110 for the same amount of work.
  • Retainers: You pay a sizable up-front fee that is designed to make sure that the attorney gets paid for his or her services. Once your costs exceed the retainer, you'll be billed for the additional services. If your case ends up costing less, the difference gets returned to you. This is particularly common in criminal cases and divorces, where costs can escalate quickly.
  • Capped fees: You pay a minimum cost, similar to a flat fee, but the attorney can bill you for additional hours if the work turns out to be more complicated. However, there's a built-in "maximum" that allows you to know exactly how much the end total will be.

Talk to any attorney you consider hiring about fees early on. That way, you and the attorney can negotiate for the arrangement that seems to work best for you both. For more information about fees and estimates, talk to a company like McKone & Unruh.


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About Me
Do You Qualify for Social Security Disability?

If you are unable to work because of an illness or injury, you may qualify for social security disability payments. This money comes from a fund you have probably contributed to during your time in the work force, and it is likely that you have the right to disability payments using this money. As an attorney specializing in social security disability, I have a great deal of experience in helping clients determine if they qualify for disability payments. I hope that this blog will help people who have been injured understand what it means to qualify for social security disability benefits and how to go about getting that help.