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Flat Rate Legal Fees Versus Hourly Fees: Which is Better in Louisiana?

Louisiana attorney fees explained

When hiring an attorney in Louisiana, you want to not only make sure you’re getting the best attorney for your legal issue, but you also want to get the best deal possible. Understanding the fee structure attorneys charge will help you save money in the long run.  

There’s basically 4 ways attorneys charge legal fees in Louisiana: 

  1. Hourly 
  1. Contingent 
  1. Flat Rate 
  1. Percentage 

Everyone knows that attorneys are expensive, but necessary when dealing with legal issues in Louisiana. Usually, the type of case will dictate the legal fee type, with an exception: hourly and flat rate fees can be used for the same legal matters. 

The 4 Ways Attorneys Charge in Louisiana 

Hourly 

The hourly fee schedule is self-explanatory: the attorney charges you by the hour that he or she does work for you. You’re charged for every email, phone call, meeting and court hearing by their hourly rate. This hourly lawyer rate can vary widely from $150/hour to $300/hour and beyond. The attorney gets paid more the longer the case takes. This could bring up a number of issues such as: is the attorney working as fast on your case as they could? Are they filing needless motions to drive up cost? Could a phone call to you have been handled by an email? These are all questions to ask yourself.  

Contingent 

Personal injury attorneys normally charge on a contingent basis, meaning they earn a percentage of your case if you win. You’re not guaranteed to win, so the attorney is taking a chance on their time. They could end up with nothing if they lose. They are motivated to win and do it as quickly as possible and for as much as possible. You don’t pay them by the hour, but by the settlement. Your attorney will earn a percentage of your settlement. It could be a large portion, but you don’t have to pay them by the hour and usually nothing out-of-pocket. This type of legal fee arrangement is usually reserved for personal injury, collections or other similar area of law. It can often be as high as 40% or more. You usually won’t find divorce or child custody attorneys that accept contingent fees due to the type of work involved.  

Flat Rate

Flat rate legal fees are a one time fee usually paid up front. Some attorneys allow you to split up the fee, but you will know up front exactly how much the legal representation will cost. Flat rate fees allow you to contact your attorney as often as you like without having to pay more money in legal fees. This form of payment motivates your attorney to complete the work faster and are a great choice for successions, uncontested divorces and other legal matters.

Percentage  

Some attorneys charge a set percentage of an estate for successions. This is a rare form of legal fee structure, but it does exist. An example would be a large estate paying an attorney 2-4% of the total estate to assist with legal matters.  

Which Legal Fee Structure is the Best?  

It depends on the type of legal case you have. Personal injury is best suited for contingency fees because you don’t have to pay upfront legal fees which could be astronomical. Plus, you don’t usually owe anything if you lose.  

The main two legal fee structures that seem to clash are hourly and flat rate fees. Hourly fees tend to benefit the attorney more than the client because it’s easy to work slow, make more phone calls, more meetings and longer than necessary court appearances. You could have a huge legal bill and not realize it until you receive an invoice from your attorney.  

Flat rate fees for legal matters work like this: You pay the attorney a set fee up-front and they begin work on your case. The fee is set before the work begins, so you know how much it will cost before writing the check. Your lawyer is motivated to work fast because he or she will not be receiving more payments. Attorneys that accept flat rate fees know their work well and know exactly how long it will take for them to complete the task. If they have to put in more hours than anticipated – they can’t bill you for it because the rate was set at the beginning of the job. They eat the loss if they miscalculated the amount of work involved or if they hit a snag in the work process.  

Flat rate fees are great for divorces, child custody, successions, real estate, criminal court and more. Louisiana divorce attorneys charging flat rate fees for uncontested divorces has become extremely popular because it’s usually a matter of petitions and filings to get your divorce finalized. More and more Louisiana succession attorneys are also charging flat rate fees which allows both parties to fully understand what the legal services will cost and there are no surprises.  

Most successions and uncontested divorces in Louisiana can be handled without a court appearance and are perfect for flat rate fees because attorneys know roughly how many hours are required to finish the work and there usually isn’t any court time to rack up fees.  

When meeting with your attorney for the first time, be sure to discuss how they will be paid. Most attorneys charge anywhere from $150 and hour to $300 an hour and sometimes more depending on their specialization. You could spend a small fortune if your case goes on for years and you don’t keep up with the hours. It’s difficult to know exactly how much you are being charged hourly if your case drags on for months and months.  

Flat Rate Fees Benefit the Client 

As stated previously, flat rate fees motivate the attorney to finish the work quickly and efficiently. They know they are only getting paid once and the quicker they complete the work, the quicker they can take a new case. Attorneys that offer flat rate pricing in Louisiana don’t charge you extra for every phone call, email, fax or random question you have about your case – they can’t because you have already agreed to a set price.  

If your attorney doesn’t offer flat rate pricing for your legal matter, you can easily call around and ask for prices. While not all attorneys can quote you a specific price without hearing about your case, they should be able to tell you how much it will cost before they begin work. The last thing you want to happen if for your attorney to begin work without telling you how much it will cost and receiving a bill that you cannot afford. You could find yourself in a half-finished case that you now can’t afford to complete.  

Sign a Flat Rate Fee Contract With Your Attorney

You should always sign a contract with your attorney, even if he or she doesn’t offer. The attorney contract will outline the type of work to be completed and the price. There should be no confusion with a properly executed contract. Be sure to keep a copy for your records in case there is ever a dispute.  

If you are currently looking for a Louisiana attorney, here’s an article that can help you choose the right attorney for your legal matter in Louisiana.  

Disclaimer: This blog post does not intend to disperse legal advice. You must speak with an attorney for legal advice.  

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