Can I Afford a Lawyer? What Payment Structure is Best for Me?

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Most injury people, in Halifax or elsewhere in Nova Scotia, get frustrated or overwhelmed trying to deal with insurance companies on their own. When trying to get benefits for medical treatment or fair compensation for a disability, it may become quickly obvious that the initially friendly insurance adjuster does not have your best interests at heart.

You may feel like you’re being treated unfairly. You may have questions or concerns that need answering and you distrust the insurance company to give you honest answers. These thoughts and feelings are all too common!

Fortunately, an experienced injury lawyer can provide you with all the help and answers you need. Lots of folks know this but hesitate to make the call for help because they are worried about how much that legal help would cost.

Don’t lawyers cost a lot of money? How can I afford to hire the help of an experienced lawyer if my injury is such that I’m having a hard time paying my bills at home?

While it’s true that like any professional service, hiring a lawyer will cost money, some lawyers are willing to set up a payment structure whereby you only have to pay them if you get paid, delaying payment of any fee until you’ve received compensation from an insurance company. This is called working on a “contingency fee” basis. It helps promote access to justice in that it allows almost anyone to hire a lawyer. But is it right for you?

There are typically two payment structures that lawyers work on: (1) hourly rate billings, or (2) contingency. What follows are the pros and cons of each:

1. Billing by the Hour – Under this fee structure, the lawyer agrees to provide legal services for an certain amount of money per hour. This hourly rate is set by the market; lawyers with many years of experience, a good reputation, and/or a proven track record of success, will generally charge more (because clients will be willing to pay it).

Under this fee arrangement, lawyers keep careful track of every email, phone call, meeting, hour of research, etc. Typically, they will then charge their client every month by sending a bill and insist on payment within a certain number of days.

Having a lawyer work on an hourly basis can be advantageous if your dispute is resolved quickly. It won’t cost many, many hours worth of time.  Unfortunately, with litigation it’s not easy to predict at the start how long the case will take and hourly rates are can be risky and don’t provide a lot of certainty.

Also, if you know that your lawyer is charging you for every phone call or email, most people are more reluctant to reach out and have their /questions or concerns addressed. Because they will be charged for every such contact.

2. Contingency Rate – Under a contingency fee agreement, your lawyer agrees to delay payment until the very end of your case, and only if you are successful and recovering compensation. If you succeed at getting an insurance company to fairly compensate you, then you agree to pay your lawyer a percentage of that settlement or judgement. The rates in Nova Scotia are typically 25-35%.

There are pros and cons to having a lawyer work on a contingency basis. One significant advantage is not having to worry about monthly invoices. You don’t have to pay anything until the end, and then only if you win. Another positive is that if your lawyer is working on a contingency basis, he or she won’t charge for every phone call, email or meeting. You can reach out to your lawyer as much as you want or need for guidance, answers and advise without worrying about being charged.

A possible downside about paying a lawyer to work on contingency is that if your case is not complicated and resolves quickly, you may end up paying more for each hour that was worked than if that lawyer had billed by the hour. But again, it’s difficult to predict how any given legal claim will go at the start.

Bottom line is this: every case is different. If you need legal help and are wondering about how you can afford a lawyer, or which fee structure is best for your situation, you should ask for advice. At Valent Legal, we give people honest advise every day to point them in the direction that works best for them.


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