It shouldn’t be a mystery to the public needing legal services what lawyers charge.
However, with rare exception, after 40 years of law practice, I have never seen a lawyer publicly disclose what he or she charges for various legal services.
This mystery seems to be endemic to professionals.
After all, do you know how much your doctor will charge you for an office visit when you walk in?
Do you know how much he or she will charge for a surgical procedure or a test?
Do accountants, engineers, architects, dentists or any other professional at least give you some idea how much they will charge for what you need done before you discuss it with them or before you hire them?
Well, here’s what I charge—but before we begin, you must understand that legal cases involve different levels of legal complexity and effort on the part of a lawyer and so the lawyer must adjust their fees accordingly.
Here’s what I charge for different kinds of cases that I do:
- Personal Injury cases: in EVERY personal injury case (car/truck wrecks, motorcycle wrecks, 18 wheeler cases, construction injuries –not workers’ comp, however– bridge collapse, whatever) my standard fee is 1/3rd of the GROSS recovery (that is, the total amount recovered before deduction of expenses of doing the case) if I can settle the case for the client before filing suit. The attorney’s fee goes to 40% of the gross recovery after filing suit. The reason for this is simple: if you have to file suit, you know you have a fight on your hands—which means more work and more expense. Since most clients cannot afford to pay the expenses (court costs, expert fees, deposition fees, etc.) I pay those out of my pocket and get reimbursed IF we win the case. If we do not win (and it happens sometimes), then I do not charge my client ANYTHING and I don’t even ask that the expenses be repaid to me.
- Workers’ compensation cases: the attorney’s fee in these cases is set by law at 25% for handling the case through a hearing before a workers’ compensation judge and the appeal (if any) to the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. The fee is also set by law at no more than 1/3rd of the recovery for the client if the case goes further—as in an appeal to Circuit Court or the Mississippi Supreme Court.
- Divorces: The fees in divorces vary, depending on the complexity of the case and the financial situation of the client. I’m not going to charge a man or woman working in a furniture factory the same thing as the owner of the furniture factory. There is more, financially, involved. Also in some cases there are claims for alimony, property and custody of children that are at issue. I generally will charge anyone at least a retainer of $3,000 and that could go to $5,000 to $10,000 depending on the case. That’s the retainer. That retainer will be used up at my hourly rates, which vary from $250 per hour to $350 per hour depending on the complexity of the case and the financial situation of the parties involved. Once the retainer is used up, then the client has to come up with additional funds to cover the time and expense of the case.
- Criminal cases: For misdemeanors which will be tried in city court or justice court, $500 to $1,500 depending on the case and how far I have to travel to get to the court. For felonies—(these are, of course, the really serious crimes), I will usually charge at least $5,000 and may go to $10,000 or more. I will not accept a case involving the sexual or physical abuse of children, I don’t care how much money you’ve got. (I’ve heard a lot about those “Superlawyers” out there charging $50,000 for a felony case in State or Federal Court—in most cases, and I emphasize MOST cases, what I see is that a client pays $50,000 and then the “Superlawyer” just negotiates a plea for them and they go to jail anyway).
- Business cases: there are many kinds of business cases, so I just have to guess at the complexity and time involved but will generally charge a $3,000 to $5,000 retainer and use that up at an hourly rate I think appropriate. I can, but generally don’t, do mundane business matters such as setting up LLCs or corporations and I certainly don’t do collections except on payment of a retainer, used at an hourly rate. (So don’t call me to collect that $500 from the bum who wouldn’t pay—there are other lawyers who will do it).
- Civil rights / gun rights cases: I don’t generally do the usual civil rights case (age, sex, race, religion or national origin discrimination) but sometimes I make an exception, depending on the case and how I feel about it (I really detest bad treatment of good people) and for gun rights cases I will do those for free but if I can I will ask the court to have the other side pay me.
- Social security disability cases: the fee in these cases is set by law at 25% of the past-due benefits if the client qualifies for social security benefits—if they do not, then there is no fee.
Persons charged with a felony (usually aggravated assault, manslaughter or murder) as a result of an act of legitimate self-defense with a firearm (limited to Mississippi residents, U.S. citizens), FREE (of course, if the client or the family can help with the expenses, it wouldn’t hurt).
Anything else: well, I just have to make a decision and discuss it with the client.
Of course, if you live in New York, Chicago, San Francisco or any other large metropolitan area, the fees I quote will seem ridiculously low.
Lawyers in those areas charge fees much, much higher because of the cost of living in those areas (yes, lawyers have bills to pay, too). The fees I quote are for cases in Mississippi.
I can, and do, practice in other States, so if I take a case in another State I will have to adjust the fee at least for the travel time it takes.
Feel free to call me. Just don’t call to complain that your lawyer is charging too much. That’s between you and them, and maybe you should have hired me in the first place.