Hiring an attorney can be stressful and full of uncertainties. Added to that uncertainty is a lack of transparency in the pricing of services. First, each case is unique. So there is no one fits all size. That said, there are two options when hiring a criminal defense attorney: flat fee or hourly. Let’s talk about each as well as some other costs that have to be considered.
Flat fee for service means that you hire an attorney for a “flat” fee for a given task. For instance, if you hire my firm for non-trial representation on a misdemeanor assault case, the flat fee will be anywhere from $3500.00 to $5000.00. Unlike an hourly case, in the “flat” fee for service model should the case take more time than originally anticipated you do not get charged since the fee is flat. Of course, if the case is easily handled, you also do not get a refund. And like the hourly model discussed below, the money is put in trust and only taken out when earned (as set out in the contract).
Hourly pricing is where you pay a retainer and the attorney bills against that retainer at an hourly rate, usually in .1 increments of an hour. So using the scenario above, you pay a retainer of $3500 – $5000.00 and my firm bills against that retainer at our hourly rate of $375.00 an hour. This means that if there is money left over, you get it back. But, should the case run long, you will owe the amount over the initial retainer.
In some cases, you also need to deposit money for anticipated costs. For instance, in any case involving allegations of a sex crime, it will be necessary to include in the retainer money to be set aside for a sex offense specific evaluation. This has to be included as if a case that involves allegations of a sex crime goes to sentencing, there will be an offense specific evaluation.
Why choose flat fee instead of hourly? Or why choose hourly instead of a flat fee? Often the reason a person chooses a flat fee or an hourly is preference. Some people like the certainty of a flat fee while others enjoy an hourly arrangement.
At Miller Leonard, PC, time is kept on all cases, flat or hourly. Our retainer is set at what is a reasonable estimate of total attorney fees in a case.
What about trials? Trials are time consuming, expensive, and can be much longer than one would want. Because trials are uncertain, trial fees are hourly. This benefits both the firm and the client.
What are normal retainers? For a misdemeanor case, a normal retainer is $3500.00 to $5000.00. For a felony case, the normal retainer is $5000 to $7500.00. For more complex felonies, the retainer can be much higher. For any charge involving an allegation of unlawful sexual contact/sex crimes, the retainer is at least $15,000, plus an additional $3000.00 for the potential offense specific evaluation.
Good attorneys are transparent with their clients about fees. And a good attorney, just like any other professional, is not shy about telling you their fees.