Lawyers generally charge in one of three ways for their services, hourly, flat fee, or contingency (percentage). Not every type is permitted for every legal situation. For personal injury cases, most lawyers charge a percentage of the recovery. For certain business transactions, such as incorporation, most lawyers will charge a flat fee. For most other matters, lawyers charge hourly. You need to understand how the lawyer will charge you, both in terms of the minimum billing increments, as well as additional expenses. There is an extremely wide range of hourly rates, from $100 to $1,000 per hour. Be mindful that some lawyers may have a lower hourly rate, but they may take longer to do the work. Some base their rates on the prestige of their firm, while some lawyers choose smaller firms because they want to keep their rates lower. You get what you pay for, but don’t overpay for what you get.
Once you have selected your lawyer, you will enter into a fee agreement. This is something all lawyers are required to provide you and have you sign. This agreement protects both you and the lawyer. It is supposed to spell out precisely what you are (and, in some cases, are not) hiring the lawyer to do, as well as your obligations to pay the lawyer and under what circumstances the lawyer can terminate the relationship (you always have the right to terminate the relationship). If you do not understand something in the engagement letter, be proactive. Ask questions. While your lawyer is your advocate, he or she cannot read your mind.