How do attorneys bill?

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The most common way for a private attorney to bill is hourly. Attorneys bill from a hundred to thousands of dollars per hour, depending on the practice area, skill, demand, and other facts regarding the attorney.

Contingency Bill

Another way attorneys bill is on commission or contingency. This is more common in personal injury cases like slip & falls or insurance claims than other practice areas. In exchange for representation on the case, the client agrees to give the attorney a percentage of the total outcome. If the attorney loses the case, the client generally owes nothing. There are variations of this commission where the client owes a certain amount of fees or costs throughout the process as well. The fee agreement will outline any costs.

Flat Rate

Attorneys can also bill as a flat rate, subscription (“retainer”), or some hybrid of any of the above types of billing. A flat rate means you pay one price for a set product or service. Subscription is a monthly price for ongoing services.


Attorneys can require an advance payment as well. In legal terms, this is frequently called a retainer payment, but that term can mean a variety of things.

“Retainer” can be used to mean a nonrefundable fee simply to begin representation, a monthly fee for service, or an advance payment. Be sure to clarify if your attorney mentions a retainer.

Attorneys may also require interest or fees for late payments, reasonable attorney fees for collection efforts, and other payment terms to ensure timely payments, just like any other business.


If you’d like more answers to frequently asked questions, check out Answers from Inside, now available on Amazon.

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Disclaimer: The Information found in our blog is for educational purposes only, and is not meant as legal advice. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney. Nothing in this blog is intended to create an attorney-client relationship.
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Richard Bobholz

Richard Bobholz

Managing Attorney at Law++
Richard Bobholz works primarily with small businesses to handle their formations, contracts, employment and more complicated areas of corporate law. Richard manages the small business law and mergers & acquisitions sections of the firm. Richard invented the EasyFee and was the driving force behind the 30 Companies in 30 Days pro bono project. Throughout his work, Richard demonstrates his quality workmanship, integrity and honesty, and efficient work ethic. Richard moved to Durham, NC in 2012 and opened this firm shortly thereafter with the goal of changing the legal system for the better.