If you are a type who needs an answer within one sentence of any subject matter, then the average hourly rate of an attorney ranges anywhere from $50 to $100 (first hour) for a phone consultation, and anywhere between $225 to $1,200 per hour for a client interview or court appearance.
And if that answer still keeps you thirsty for another sentence (10 more seconds of your precious time), then an average total cost of any legal attorney fees (exclusive of court fees) can range anywhere from $700 for an uncontested divorce to $20,000 for a complex estate plan.
Now, if you feel like reading more and still spending less than five minutes of your valuable time while sipping a cup of coffee (or Coke in my case), here is a brief description of lawyer/attorney rates or fees charged by law firms.
As a rule of thumb, there are no fixed or flat attorney fees per se. In other words, it is impossible for an attorney to calculate exactly the number of hours and the type of work needed on an average since every case is different and unique in circumstances and/or entities involved.
Having said that, there are industry averages and based upon observations of many, you can come up with the kind of budget you’d want to allocate. For example, after reading this article, I come up with an estimate of $10,000 in legal fees, I’d put aside another $10,000 for any contingencies which are far more frequent in the legal profession than in any other industry.
- Court appearance or client interviews by an attorney costs more than a legal research conducted by either paralegals or fresh attorneys in a law firm.
- An attorney in metropolitan area (or a city) costs more than double as compared to the attorneys based in small towns.
- Paralegal rates (for research and/or other office work) start anywhere from $35 to $75 per hour.
- Fresh and/or newly inducted attorney rates start at $100 per hour.
- Experienced attorneys (five years plus) rates average anywhere between $225 and $1,000 per hour.
Hourly Rates By Practice Area:
- Immigration $340
- Intellectual Property $318
- Tax $308
- Real Estate $304
- Trusts $301
- Insurance $186
- Mediation and Arbitration $162
- Workers’ Compensation $150
- Medical Malpractice $149
- Juvenile $86
Total Cost Of An Attorney Services By Specialty Area
- Criminal – Misdemeanor $1,000
- Criminal – Felony $3,500+
- Prenup $500 – $1,500
- Simple Estate Plan $300 to $1,500
- Complex Estate Plan $5,000 to $20,000
- Uncontested Divorce $700 to $1,500
- Contested/Custody Divorce $5,000+
Flat fees are a marketing gimmicks in the legal industry since they’d want to entice you with a $700 for an uncontested divorce or $1,000 for writing a prenup.
In reality, if you don’t comply with every single term listed on the flat fee contract, you’d still end up paying more depending on the number of court appearances, type of documents needed to collect etc.
These are kind of flat fee rates that you see mostly in ads by lawyers or legal firms;
- Administrative $813
- Bankruptcy $1,200
- Collections $450
- Contracts $600
- Corporate $800
- Criminal $750
- Elder Law $788
- Family Law $1,538
- Immigration $950
- Juvenile $538
- Real Estate $535
- Small Claims $478
- Traffic $300
- Wills & Estates $750
Flat fees for criminal cases and minor misdemeanor average around $1,000 while complexity in divorce, custody, etc can cost you $5,000 or more.
Flat fees are mostly used in these specialties;
- Elder Law
- Wills and Estates
- Divorce (when no property or children are involved)
Attorney Retainer Fees:
Now, if you are ready to hire an attorney, here is another interesting term i.e. retainer that may boggle your mind. Oh well, this is a kind of money that an attorney charges you up-front while you sign a contract to hire him/her.
No matter how much your attorney assures you, know that it is not (let me repeat the “not” in a big bold “NOT” without any need to underline it) all the money you’d be charged by the lawyer or an attorney firm.
This attorney retainer fee ranges anywhere between $2,000 to $100,000. This basically means you have bought the hours of attorney’s time within a calendar day, a month or a year (specified in the retainer agreement). Whether you use those hours or not, that money is gone (for good), non-refundable since you did not use their services and their professional time was wasted.
Personally, I like retainer agreements since they allow me to part with my money (the allotted budget for that case) and have a peace of mind that it is in the hands of a professional and a responsible attorney than with a banker who is profiting off it in a bank account.
And as I said earlier, if my attorney gave me a ball-park figure of $10,000 retainer fee for my case, I’d happily deposit $20,000 for any other costs i.e. photocopying $0.99 per copy (Staples charges you $0.10 cents per page), phone calls, letters written, witness arrangements, private investigator fees, etc.
Billable Items By Lawyers
- Legal advice (on phone or in person)
- Legal research
- Paralegal staff
- Court filing fees
- Travel, boarding and lodging expenses. Every hour is billed no matter how an attorney spends on your case.
- Courier / delivery charges.
- Phone calls, computers, internet, photocopier etc. charges.
Attorney Contingency Fee
In cases where you claim money from someone (not involving child custody or criminal cases), it is just another way for a lawyer to make money when you win the case. Attorneys usually charge one-third (33%) of the total winning amount. If you lose, the attorney fees are still your responsibility, but not the contingency fee.
Phew!!! According to Read-O-Meter (www.niram.org), the total reading time for this article is 4 minutes 26 seconds which is still under 5 minutes as I promised with you earlier. However, its a totally different matter that I spent 2 hours writing it. I will, however bill them to a future sexy robot called “Samantha” as shown in the movie “Her”.
Note: All rates shown are in US Dollars.