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How Attorney Contingency Fees Work

Sarah Edwards | November 18, 2022

Sarah Edwards
Legal Expert
Sarah Edwards, BS

Sarah Edwards is a professional researcher and writer specializing in legal content. An Emerson College alumna, she holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from the prestigious Boston institution.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Hiring a lawyer can actually be affordable with contingency fees.

Summary: A contingency fee arrangement occurs when someone hires a lawyer without any upfront fees. If the lawyer succeeds in helping the client win the case, they take a percentage of the settlement. Contingency fees allow everyone access to the nation’s legal system, regardless of their financial status. SoloSuit also improves access to justice by empowering people to represent themselves in debt lawsuits and avoid the high costs of finding a lawyer.

If you’ve ever thought about hiring a lawyer, you’ve likely wondered how you’d pay for their services. After all, attorneys don’t exactly have a reputation for being cheap—on TV, you always see them dressed in snazzy suits, winning the big bucks for their clients in court.

But millions of ordinary people hire lawyers to help them with their cases, and many don’t have the money to pay their attorneys by the hour. Instead, they utilize what’s known as a contingency fee arrangement.

What is a contingency fee agreement?

A contingency fee agreement between a client and their attorney allows someone to hire legal services with no upfront fees. So how does the lawyer get paid? Well, if the client wins, the attorney is entitled to a percentage of any settlement or court-mandated reward, according to the terms in the contingency contract. But if the case fails, the client usually pays nothing.

Contingency fees have a long history in the U.S. legal system. Thanks to this process, more people have access to legal help, regardless of their financial status.

Today, most personal injury cases include contingency fee agreements. However, other kinds of lawyers may offer contingency fees to their clients, depending on the context and circumstances of a claim.

Do I need to hire a lawyer for my debt lawsuit?

When you get sued for debt, there is a good chance that you are not in a financial position to hire an attorney to take on your case. Hiring a lawyer can end up costing more than the debt in question. Plus, it can take a lot of time to find the right kind of attorney, and you have to respond to your case before your state’s deadline in order to avoid losing by default.

SoloSuit empowers people, like you, to represent themselves in court and beat debt collectors. This can save you a lot of money, time, and stress. We provide customized legal documents to help people respond to debt lawsuits and increase their chances of winning by 7x.

If you’re been sued by a debt collector, use the customizable SoloSuit Answer form to respond to your case immediately and represent yourself in court. Check out this video to learn more:

Let’s look at an example.

Example: Tiffany is being sued by LVNV Funding for an old credit card debt of $670. When she tries to find a lawyer to take on her case, she realizes it might be cheaper to just pay off the debt, plus court fees, to LVNV. Instead, she decides to fight back and represent herself in the case. Tiffany uses SoloSuit to draft and file a response to the lawsuit. In her Answer document, Tiffany denies several of the claims against her and asserts her affirmative defenses. SoloSuit files the document for her, and she feels empowered and prepared to fight the collectors in court.

What are the benefits of a contingency fee agreement?

A contingency fee agreement is beneficial for both clients and their attorneys. For clients, they don’t need to worry about paying for legal services up front or by the hour, allowing them to get the help they need without taking on a loan or digging into their savings.

If an attorney isn’t successful in obtaining a settlement or court verdict for their client, they don’t collect any money for their work. Thus, it’s in the attorney’s financial interest to put their best efforts toward developing a winning case strategy. The stronger the case, the better chance of obtaining payment for their services.

Contingency fee arrangements also protect the court system from frivolous cases. Lawyers always have the right to determine whether they’ll accept a client’s case, and they probably won't offer a contingency fee arrangement if they know that a client has little chance of winning their claim.

If a lawyer refuses to take on a claim with a contingency fee arrangement, individuals can check with other firms to see if they would be willing to take on their lawsuit. Legal opinions concerning a case can vary; one lawyer may see value while another doesn’t.

Will you owe any upfront fees with a contingency fee agreement?

The terms of a contingency fee arrangement will vary depending on the law firm. Some lawyers may charge fees for certain costs that clients are responsible for (like court filings) even if the claim fails. Other attorneys will shoulder these costs themselves, so clients need to closely review the terms of their contingency fee arrangement with their attorney to determine whether they’ll be responsible for any costs if the claim fails.

Clients should carefully consider the fee percentage in a contingency fee arrangement. The fee percentage typically varies depending on the law firm's expertise and prestige, the case's complexity, and whether the lawyer believes it will settle or end up in a courtroom.

If an individual is uncomfortable with the contingency fee percentage, they can try to negotiate it. Individuals can also shop around with other legal firms to see if they can find a better deal.

Should you look for the cheapest contingency fee arrangement when seeking a lawyer?

The bottom line is that you should seek a lawyer with the requisite skills and knowledge to win your case. However, more prominent firms with extensive histories of winning claims aren’t always the best picks. Smaller firms are sometimes better positioned to support you since they may not have the vast clientele and workload that a larger law firm deals with daily.

But contingency fees are only a small part of the decision-making process. You should look for an attorney who is excited about your case, can talk about the laws that apply to it, and explains their process thoroughly. You should also find a lawyer who will keep you in the loop throughout the time you work with them.

During your consultation with a potential lawyer, note how you feel about working with them. Your case is probably very important to you, so you don’t want to hand your claim over to someone you don’t feel comfortable with. If you believe your claim may be worth a lot of money, it’s worth spending the time on multiple consultations with lawyers.

Don’t let money stop you from getting the legal help you need and deserve

A contingency fee arrangement allows everyone access to the nation’s legal system, regardless of their financial status. Understanding how contingency fee arrangements work is helpful if you ever need the assistance of an attorney.

SoloSuit is another way to gain access to justice. Our services empower consumers to represent themselves in debt collection lawsuits and beat collectors in court. While the US legal system can be tricky to navigate, knowing about resources available to you will help you know how to tackle your case and improve your chances of winning.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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