I do this line of work because I feel like I’m helping people AND I want to make a living. I can’t do this work without getting paid or I would end up homeless (and my wife wouldn’t like that). So I always want to get paid.
However, I generally try to defer all or a portion of my fees for my client. In other words, I do not charge you up front. Instead, I charge you after we prevail in the case or shift the fees to the defendant under certain laws. This means that for some of my cases, I only get paid if I win. This is a risky proposition.
As you can hopefully understand, this means that I am somewhat picky about what cases I accept on a deferred fee basis.
Criteria for determining fee arrangements
I look for three main things when I’m determining if I can defer fees:
- Good facts. Is it a case that a jury would feel some sense of outrage? Is it a fact that needs to be proven by an expert? Are the facts documented or just based on who-said-what? The stronger the facts, the easier it is to defer fees.
- Good law. The best cases have a clear violation of a statute. Proving a statutory violation is easier than proving, for example, that conduct was generally misleading. For instance, I want a case where I can say, “The law requires your contract to disclose ‘x’ and your contract does not disclose ‘x.'” Additionally, the law has to allow recovery of attorney’s fees.
- Likely Collections. An established business that likely has funds is a better person to take a stand against than someone with no money.
I need to be comfortable with the above criteria. If a case looks interesting, I may spend a lot of time doing homework on these issues. Deciding whether I want to defer my fees is my choice.
Other Fee Arrangements
Some cases have merit but may be too risky for me to want to work on without getting paid upfront. In this situation, I may offer reduced fees with a deferred component or I may have to just charge full fees. In all honesty, a majority of potential cases that come through my office fall within this category and most people are not willing or able to pay even reduced rates, unfortunately.
If I am going to charge you, I do offer to provide a litigation minimum expense estimate. This will at least let you know how much you should be prepared to spend at a minimum to bring a case. In my view, this helps my clients make informed decisions about whether to pursue their rights in court.
In all of my fee arrangements, my goal is to manage the risk I face of not getting paid against the wrongs perpetrated against my clients. If you have been clearly wronged, it reduces my risk. If you were probably wronged, but there are issues of fact, it is just a riskier case to me and you. In those cases, I’m not willing to absorb the whole risk, so I charge at least some fees.