Not engaging the services of a San Antonio attorney because you fear the costs involved could turn out to be a costly mistake. Attorneys know the law and the best way to proceed. Make sure you take that knowledge into consideration when deciding if the attorney’s charges are reasonable. It is necessary to pay for expertise in all fields.
However, you don’t want to pay more than you have to. A quick trawl of the internet will show that attorneys are notoriously coy about stating their fees. There are some general principles to consider, though. Fees tend to be in two camps: family law fees including such things as divorce, real estate and bankruptcy, and criminal defense fees.
Now these two broad camps divide further still; there are flat fees, retainer fees and contingency fees.
Flat fees are easily understood and planned for and are used in family law on occasions. Typically the attorney’s office will provide you with a schedule of charges for all contingencies including researching the legal issue, completing paperwork and filing court documents. There are no unexpected charges, and this approach is common in cases such as chapter 7 bankruptcy because, as a result of experience, the attorney can estimate what will be involved. At the time of writing this, a flat fee for a San Antonio chapter 7 is likely to be in the vicinity of $1800.00. This includes the cost of filing and the attorney’s fee.
Flat fees do not necessarily cost less. When offering a flat fee, the attorney takes a risk as a case can sometimes extend over a longer time period than estimated, and this is reflected in the fee. In fact, analyzed from the point of view of an hourly rate, a flat fee would usually come to more than the attorney’s hourly rate. The purpose of a flat rate is to provide the client certainty and peace of mind with regard to legal costs.
Retainer fees are quite a different approach to legal fees. Retainer fees, as the name suggests, ensure that the client retains the services of the attorney. But these fees are not static and increase depending on the intricacy and complexity of the case. Criminal law, due to the uncertain nature of defending a person, the duration of the case and the unexpected requirements that can arise, is when retainer fees are used.
Contingency fees are another fee structure often associated with personal injury cases. If this option is offered, you will not need to pay the attorney unless the case is won. The costs then are likely to be considerable, but will be commensurate with the sum awarded to you. Make sure this is clarified, and keep in mind that contingency fees do not mean you escape legal costs, which could be considerable, if you lose.
You should always discuss fees with the attorney you intend to engage. If the attorney does not introduce the topic, you must.
There are some issues to consider with care. If, for example, the attorney suggests a low retainer of around $500 but will not commit to a maximum fee, consider going elsewhere. This is because a low retainer is a sign of a case that the attorney anticipates will be simple, and you do not want to leave yourself open to inflated fees at a later date.
Realistically, the only way to find out what a particular San Antonio attorney will charge you is to ask.