September 2021 (Chicago, IL)

Because legal representation is often only needed when a serious issue occurs in someone’s life, hiring an attorney can be a new and overwhelming experience for many people. If you’re hiring a Chicago attorney, it’s important to understand how they will charge you for their services. Lawyers are subject to state ethics rules and are required to charge reasonable fees.

You should seek the assistance of an attorney if you are being sued or accused of a crime. However, legal representation is frequently needed in situations that have nothing to do with crime or a court action. You may need to hire a lawyer when you are:

·        Creating or updating an estate plan

·        Buying or selling real estate

·        Entering into a contract

·        Involved in an accident

·        Experiencing a violation of your rights

Having an honest and open discussion about fees with your prospective attorney will help you to avoid misunderstandings. You should always carefully review any bills received from your attorney.

Types of Payment Arrangements

Due to variations in experience, skills, and expenses, different attorneys will value their time at different rates.

There are several ways that a Chicago lawyer may bill for his or her service.

Hourly Rate
Hourly rates will vary depending on the attorney’s experience and the complexity of the case. For example, a divorce involving property and child custody disputes can be expected to cost more than an uncontested divorce.

Flat Rate
A flat rate indicates the total cost of all services. This is a common arrangement for legal services such as estate planning. 

Contingency Fee
A fee is considered contingent when it is based on the successful resolution of your case by your attorney. In this arrangement, the attorney will only receive compensation if you win your lawsuit and are awarded money. Your attorney should indicate how much of your payout he or she will expect. It is typically paid as a percentage of your monetary recovery and is usually one-third of what you win from the case. Contingency fees do not include out-of-pocket expenses. A contingency fee is typically used by lawyers in personal injury cases.

Fees Set By A Judge
In some situations, the attorney’s fee is determined by the court. This is often the case during the handling of an estate.

Retainer Fee
This refers to money that you will need to pay in advance before the attorney will begin working on your case. Although there are different types of retainer fees, a lawyer will typically deposit your funds into a special account and withdraw the funds from the retainer fee as work progresses on your case.

You should always arrange to request and obtain a written fee agreement from your attorney that provides a full description of the services he or she will perform, and the type of amount of fees that you will be expected to pay. This agreement should also indicate how any other costs and expenses of your case will be calculated. As with any other binding agreement, you should read the contract carefully and make sure that you understand it before signing it.


Other Legal Services Fees

Lawyers usually bill for meetings, document preparation, copies and correspondence, research of legal issues, representations in court, and for other work that directly relates to the case. You may also have to pay for the lawyer’s “out-of-pocket” expenses such as travel and court filing fees.

A lawyer may charge you for various things as part of his or her legal services, including:

Time Spent On Your Case
Over the course of your legal representation, your attorney may need to go to court, make phone calls, hold meetings, or conduct a deposition.

Court Costs and Expenses
Filing a lawsuit involves fees, which vary by county and range between $300 and $400 depending on the lawsuit.

Subpoena Fees
An attorney will charge for gathering documents and information about your case, which is done with a subpoena, or legal request for information and documents.

Deposition and Witness Fees
In the event that there are witnesses involved with your case, they will also be given a subpoena for their deposition.

Trial Expenses
There may be additional fees if your case goes to trial. Be sure to discuss this possibility – and the fees it could involve – with your attorney before signing the contract.

All fees should be clearly outlined in any contract you sign with a lawyer.


If You Can’t Afford a Lawyer

There are legal aid agencies throughout Illinois that offer free or low-cost legal assistance for eligible individuals who cannot afford an attorney. Eligibility is generally based on income and the nature of the legal problem. These legal aid agencies will typically not provide representation in criminal cases or in situations where contingent fee arrangements may be made. For more information about legal aid in Illinois, visit


Before You Hire a Chicago Lawyer

Hiring an attorney is an important decision, and it may require some time and research to find the attorney who is right for you. Before meeting with a lawyer for the first time, be prepared to provide a short summary of your legal situation and your desired outcome. During your initial meeting, you’ll want to ask him or her about:

·        Their experience with your type of case

·        The likelihood of getting the solution you want

·        The fees for each member of the law firm who would work on your case

·        How long it might take to resolve your legal issue

This initial meeting is generally purely informational for both you and the attorney. It is an opportunity for the attorney to speak with you and obtain further information from you, and it is an opportunity for you to ask any questions about your case. It is helpful to bring any documents, photographs or other evidence relating to your claim with you to the meeting.

The Herbert Law Firm offers free, no-obligation case reviews and consultations to Chicagoans in need of experienced legal representation. For a free confidential phone consultation, call us at 312-655-7660 or fill out our online form at