Depending on the type of matter involved, Mr. Coughlin has different fee structures which are discussed and agreed to at the time of the engagement.:
- Hourly Rate – In hourly agreements, charges are based on the amount of time spent on a matter, Time is billed to the client at increments of tenths of an hour, for example, drafting a letter may take as little as ten minutes or more than an hour, depending on the length and complexity of a letter.
The cost of the service will depend on the time spent. A formal lawsuit could consume hundreds of hours, depending on how involved the case is, how many witnesses, etc. On the other hand, a dispute with a contractor or a creditor may get resolved within a few hours without filing suit, Many clients find that hourly billing is the best way to manage and predict costs, and it serves to keep the attorney and client in communication to avoid billing surprises.
In most cases of hourly billing, the attorney will require a retainer to cover the first few hours of work anticipated. If the matter is resolved in less time, the surplus retainer may be refunded, or held for future matters. When the retainer is depleted, the attorney may request a replenishment.
- Contingent fee agreement – Contingency arrangements are agreements to pay based on the outcome of the case, usually with the attorney getting paid a percentage of the recovery (verdict or settlement). Attorney advertisements promising “no fee paid unless we recover for you” are usually contingent fee arrangements.
Contingent fee agreements are most common in personal injury cases, but they can be applied to other matters, such as collection of a debt, or other claims involving monetary recovery. Note that in New Jersey, the Rules of Court limit the percentage that attorneys can keep in personal injury contingent fee cases, and attorneys are required by law to confirm these terms in writing with the client.
- Flat Fee – Sometimes the attorney and client will agree on a set fee in advance of the engagement. This often occurs for one time appearances in court, where the total time spent preparing and attended can be predicted with relative certainty, or the drafting of certain types of documents such as a will or contract.
Legal services also involve out of pocket expenses, some of which are charged back to the client without markup. Some examples of costs charged back to the client are court or agency filing fees, courier and delivery costs, large copy/print jobs, and retention of experts or professional consultants.