When you face the possibility of jail or prison time, you need an experienced attorney on your side. A skilled lawyer has the knowledge and training to uphold your rights, protect your interest and build an effective defense. Paying for a competent legal professional requires a financial commitment, of course. Before you begin selecting an attorney, it is helpful to know what you can expect in terms of fees.
Factors That Determine What You’ll Pay: The Nature of Your Case
It’s difficult to say how much your case will cost. Your attorney will likely charge you based on the complexity of your case. This includes how long it will last and how much preparation will go into defending you. For example, attorneys will likely need to expend more energy and time into defending a client charged with first-degree murder than one with a robbery charge. Also, if your case has any other unique circumstances, your lawyer may charge you a higher fee.
The Attorney’s Qualifications and Experience
As with any professional, you can expect to pay more for a lawyer with more years of practice under his or her belt than one that just passed the bar exam last week. More experienced lawyers will naturally have higher rates, as they have a proven track record of representing clients like you that they can point to. A lawyer may also be well-known for defending high-profile clients in significant cases. This attorney would be more expensive than one who has spent most of his or her career working on non-criminal cases.
Size of the Firm, Location
Though it may not be the situation in every instance, most attorneys in larger, urban areas will require a larger payment than someone in a small town. The same is true for an attorney who belongs to a large, established firm vs. a lawyer who practices on his or her own.
Hourly Fees, Retainers and Fixed Costs
Lawyers will either charge an hourly rate or a standard fee for their services. Hourly rates can vary from $100 an hour to $500 or more. A fixed fee will depend on the nature of the case, but it could range from $10,000 to over $100,000. Retainers are like down payments that you pay to secure an attorney’s work. Retainers can be larger in criminal cases, usually $10,000 or more.