What are the advantages of conditional fee agreements?

How attorneys’ fees are set

Hiring a lawyer can seem like a daunting task, especially if you need one to advise you on complicated issues such as starting a business, dealing with a car accident or drafting a will. Knowing how the process will unfold before you choose a lawyer can make it easier.

After you find the right lawyer for your case, keep asking questions until you are sure you understand the terms you have agreed upon. Then, ask for the terms of the agreement to be put in writing. Discuss with the attorney the possible approaches to your case, your expectations and the work to be done, including the following:

When you choose a lawyer, you will discuss with him or her how you will be paid for his or her services. Most lawyers charge for the number of hours, or fractions of an hour, they work on a case. Some lawyers have a flat fee for a service, for example, for drafting a will. Others charge a contingent fee and get a share of the money the client gets for the case. Your lawyer should tell you whether, in addition to charging you a fee, you will also have to pay other expenses related to your case, for example, for copies of documents, costs of court filings or depositions.

Model Fee Agreement

A contingent fee (in the United States) or conditional fee (in England and Wales) is a fee for services rendered where the fee is payable only if there is a favorable outcome. In law, it is defined as a “fee charged for the services of an attorney only if the claim is successful or is favorably resolved out of court…. Contingent fees are generally calculated as a percentage of the client’s net recovery.”[1] This makes it easier to understand how the fee is calculated.

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This makes it easier for the poor to pursue their civil rights since otherwise, to sue someone for a Tort one must first be wealthy enough to pursue such litigation in the first place. However, because of the high risk, few attorneys will take cases on a contingency basis if they do not feel the case has good merit.



Contingency fees do not guarantee civil justice or even access to the courts. Attorneys will sometimes “cherry pick” only the strongest claims that are most likely to succeed. Not all cases are immediately transparent. Some require extensive investigation before the chances of success can be properly assessed. Such cases may be rejected because even the initial assessment of their strength is costly and risky.

When the attorney does not comply

The initial appointment to discuss the facts of a potential case is free. Similarly, in medical malpractice cases, we do not charge a fee to review medical records. In most cases, when it appears that the claim has merit, we will advance the costs necessary to investigate and pursue the claim. In the event we undertake formal representation, we will be reimbursed for any costs advanced at the conclusion of the case, provided we are able to obtain compensation on your behalf.

Most of the claims handled by our office are settled before going to trial. Statewide, approximately 8 out of 10 cases settle without going to court or a jury trial. However, because we cannot predict whether or not a case will settle without going to trial, our attorneys prepare all cases in the same manner, assuming that if a fair and reasonable settlement cannot be reached, we are prepared to take the matter to trial on behalf of our clients.

What percentage is paid to an attorney

Once you decide to hire an attorney, make sure you understand the terms agreed upon between the two of you. How often will the attorney give you updates on the case? What information will you be required to provide? Do you understand all of your options? What will the total cost be? If you are unclear about exactly what the attorney is doing, ask for a clear explanation. Although the likelihood of success in your case cannot be guaranteed, discuss with the attorney the focus or approach to your case. You should feel comfortable with the approach taken by your attorney. Be frank with your attorney about all the facts and circumstances surrounding your situation. You may wish to obtain a written agreement with your attorney.

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Advance Fees.  Your lawyer may ask you to pay an advance fee. An attorney may use this type of fee – often called a retainer – as an advance payment to cover expenses and fees. It is important that you check your account periodically to see how your money is being spent.

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