Contingency fee agreements give some beneficiaries access to legal representation when they otherwise would not have sufficient funds to pay a lawyer on an hourly basis.
Typically, lawyers are paid based on their hourly rate. A lawyer will work so many hours a month on your case, and you pay them monthly based on that hourly rate. Unfortunately, many cases can cost a significant amount to reach a resolution. What is a beneficiary to do who cannot afford to hire and pay a lawyer on an hourly basis?
That’s where contingency fee agreements come into play. A contingency fee is simply paying a lawyer a percentage of the assets the lawyer recovers for you in your lawsuit. The is only paid if you receive money. If you receive nothing, you pay the lawyer nothing.
Keep in mind, that the amount of attorneys’ fees you will ultimately pay is usually lower if you pay an attorney based on his or her hourly rate, as opposed to a contingency fee.
For example, let’s say you are owed $1 million in inheritance that you cannot receive because of a problem with the Trust or Will. Further assume that the case lasts ten to twelve months in court before you receive your money, and you pay your attorney $100,000 for his time working on your case for ten to twelve months. $100,000 is a lot of money to pay, but it is worth the expense if you are fighting for, and receive, $1 million in return.
What if you do not have enough money to pay a lawyer $100,000 over twelve months of litigation? Then you can hire a lawyer on a contingency fee basis, where the lawyer does the work, and usually pays for all of the costs of litigation, and then the lawyer receives a percentage of your $1 million recovery. In California, the typically contingency percentage is forty percent. Forty percent of $1 million is $400,00. That means the litigation under this scenario would cost $100,000 if you pay the lawyer for his hourly rate, versus $400,000 if you pay based on a contingency fee.
Obviously, if you don’t have the money to hire a lawyer on an hourly basis, then you have no choice but to opt for a contingency fee. There are some upsides to contingency fees too that you do NOT receive if you hire a lawyer on an hourly basis.
Upsides to Contingency Fees
For example, under most contingency fee agreements your lawyer will pay all costs of litigation for you. Those costs can be substantial once you pay for filing fees, subpoenas, depositions, experts, and other related costs. Most cases can incur costs of between $10,000 and $80,000 or more. If you do not prevail in your case, then you don’t have to pay the lawyer back, the lawyer loses the costs. That is a significant benefit to you.
And of course, if you lose your case your lawyer is paid nothing. That is another significant benefit to you. Imagine spending $100,000 on a case and then losing it. Losing a case is always a possibility. With contingency cases if you don’t win, you don’t pay.
Hopefully this gives you something to consider when you are deciding how to pay your lawyer. Contingency fee agreements are not right to everyone, but they do provide a viable alternative for those beneficiaries who need legal representation.