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How Much Lawyers Cost: 5 Factors That Affect Lawyers’ Rates

how-much-lawyers-cost“How much do lawyers cost,” you ask?  Great question. The answer (like the answer to most legal questions) is, “it depends.” To find out how much lawyers cost, you must turn to a number of different factors that affect the pricing.  The top 5 factors that determine how much lawyers cost are as follows:

  1. Billing method and pricing structure
  2. The size and prestige of the law firm
  3. The area of law, or the type of legal work being done
  4. The experience level of the lawyer
  5. The location where the legal services are being performed

Lawyers’ Billing Method

Billing in the legal industry is typically done hourly.  This means most of the time, lawyers cost an amount proportionate to the time they spend working on your case.   A particular lawyer’s hourly rate will depend on the other 4 factors discussed below.  In general, hourly rates will vary between $150-500 per hour.

Lawyers may also bill on a flat fee basis for certain services, such as corporate formation, wills, or trademark filings.  The good thing about flat fee billing is that the lawyers’ cost does not fluctuate based on number of hours worked because the fee is arranged and often paid upfront.  Go to this article to get an actual estimate of how much you will pay for lawyer fees.

There are also certain cases, such as many personal injury or patent infringement lawsuits, where lawyers are paid on a contingency basis.  These lawyers charge the client a percentage of the settlement or judgment, or are only paid if they win the case.  So to determine how much personal injury lawyers cost, you must factor in the percentage of the settlement they will earn for winning the lawsuit (typically around 33%) and the total amount of the settlement.

Size and Prestige of the Law Firm

Typically lawyers from larger more reputable law firms cost more money than lawyers in smaller law firms or solo practitioners.  So the size and reputation of the law firm where the lawyer works is a very important factor to take into account when hiring a lawyer and determining how much lawyers cost.

If you are dealing with a highly complex matter it may be worth the additional cost to work with a high-end more expensive law firm. Otherwise, you may be better off working with a solo practitioner or small firm to cut down on lawyer fees. Here is more info about how to find the right lawyer.

Area of Law or Type of Legal Work

 Certain types of legal work are much more expensive than others, so how much lawyers cost will often be directly impacted by the type of legal work being performed. For example, highly specialized areas of law like patent prosecution generally cost more than more “everyday” legal services like estate planning. The area of law will also often determine what type of billing structure is used, whether it be hourly, flat fee, or contingency-based.

 Experience Level of the Lawyer

How much lawyers cost is often directly correlated with how many years the lawyer has been practicing law. Much like a fine wine, lawyers get better with age.

A lawyer that has been practicing for 30 years will be highly knowledgeable and have a high level of expertise in one or more areas of law. Therefore, that lawyer’s services are significantly more in demand than a 2nd year associate that barely graduated law school. According to the law of supply and demand, hiring the experienced lawyer costs significantly more as well.

Jurisdiction Where the Legal Services are Performed

How much lawyers cost will vary in different areas and parts of the country. Lawyers in rural settings may have a smaller pool of clients, but also less competition from other lawyers.

This means rural-area lawyers cost less on average than lawyers in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles or New York City. A lawyer in a farming community in Iowa might cost $100-200 per hour, whereas a lawyer in the same field in Los Angeles might cost $400-500 per hour.

So when analyzing how much lawyers cost, whether they are practicing in a rural or urban area will often be an important factor too.

Conclusion

How much lawyers cost is a very important issue that most people will want to find out about before hiring one. However, there is no definite answer, so think about these 5 factors any time you find yourself in a position where you need to hire a lawyer to give yourself a better idea of how much lawyers cost.

Lawyer pricing is such an important issue for most people that we decided to create a service around it. If you are interested in getting real price comparisons from lawyers in your area, check out LawKick.com and get bids from lawyers for a wide variety of legal services for free.

About Aaron George

Visionary. Entrepreneur. Law school dropout. Working on bringing the legal industry online. And blogging about it.

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