Several types of fee arrangements are used based on the type of case, difficulty of the issues involved, amount of work required, time limitations or expectations, amount of money the law firm will need to invest, the risk involved, the probability of success, and the resources at hand. The law firm of Christian M. Zeaman, P.C. analyzes each case and implements a fair and reasonable fee arrangement that meets both the firm’s and the client’s satisfaction. Each client enters into a written contract that fully details the fee arrangement. In some cases, a second signor (co-signor) may be required to guarantee payment of the attorney fees pursuant to the contract. You will fully understand all fees and their payments; there are no hidden surprises.
FAMILY LAW FEES
Family law cases usually require a retainer fee before work begins. A good analogy about how retainer fees work is to think of a car. To run your car, you need to fill the fuel tank with gas. Once the tank is empty, it must be refilled. Retainer fees work much the same way. A retainer purchases a set amount of work computed by the hourly rate agreed upon by you and your attorney. Once the retainer fee is exhausted, another retainer will need to be paid. Retainer fees range from $500.00 to $10,000.00, depending on the case.
The retainer fee does not cover the costs/expenses of the case. These costs are the sole responsiblity of the client. Such costs or expenses might include, but are not limited to, filing fees, deposition fees, expert fees, witness fees, investigation fees, copy fees, etc. spent for the case.
The Oklahoma Bar Association’s Rules of Ethics do not allow Family Law cases to be handled through a contingency fee arrangement (with the exception of child support arrearage and property recovery). However, special payment arrangements can be made for unique clients and cases.
CRIMINAL DEFENSE FEES
Criminal Defense fees require a full up-front, non-refundable attorney fee. In essence, the client is required to pay a fee in full at the initiation of legal representation. In some situations, the fee may be structured for each phase of the legal process. The client is solely responsible for any and all costs of the case, including, but not limited to, expert fees, investigator fees, transcript fees, etc.
Criminal Defense fees are non-refundable for several reasons. First, once an attorney starts a defense case by entering an appearance, the court retains the power on whether or not the attorney may withdraw – regardless of the client’s failure to pay the attorney fees. Second, non-refundable retainers protect against the possiblilty of a conflict of interest.
In some cases or situations, upon agreement, the up-front fee may be paid in installments through a payment plan.
CIVIL LAW FEES
Civil cases, with the exception of civil defense (defending a lawsuit), are usually taken on a contingency fee arrangement. A contingency fee arrangement is an agreed upon percentage wherein the attorney takes a percentage of a successful recovery, settlement or verdict. These fees are always negotiable and vary from case-to-case depending on the investment cost, difficulty level and risk involved. Further, the percentage can increase during the settlement or litigation process due to these factors. For example, the contingency fee arrangement may call for a 20% attorney fee if the case is settled prior to filing suit, 30% once a lawsuit is filed and 40% once a jury/non-jury trial has been scheduled.
A contingency fee arrangement offers several advantages: 1) You are not required to pay an attorney fee up front; 2) You are only responsible for the costs or expenses of the case if successful recovery, settlement or verdict is reached (i.e., if your case does not settle or is unsuccessful at trial, the law firm is fully responsible for the costs, with the exception of the other parties’ attorney fees and costs if awarded); 3) If your case is unsuccessful, no attorney fees are owed (with the exception of the other parties’ attorney fees and costs if awarded).
Civil Defense cases and other cases wherein relief other than monetary is requested require retainer fees. These are addressed the same way as the Family Law Fees (as discussed above).