How to Select an Attorney : What to Expect

     The following is a general outline of what to expect regarding fee arrangements when retaining an attorney.  The information below is meant to be a general guide to fee arrangements and is not meant to be exhaustive.  It is also important to remember that fee arrangements can be negotiated between the client and the attorney.  Thus, fee arrangements will vary among attorneys.  This is particularly true for hourly fees.

1.  Personal Injury Actions.  These would include automobile accidents, medical malpractice, workman's compensation to name a few.

a.  Automobile Accidents and Other Negligence Actions.  The general fee for these types of cases is for the attorney to receive 33% of any recovery from settlement or a judgment received after a trial.  This is called a "contingency fee."   If the attorney does not secure a recovery through settlement or trial, he does not receive the contingency fee.  At times, if the attorney is willing to handle an appeal of a judgment or a second trial, the contingency fee requested is increased to 40%. The attorney also will receive all expenses and costs related from the handling of the matter.  These expenses and costs are separate from the fees mentioned above.  Beware of any attorney who seeks fees greater than the above!

b.  Medical Malpractice.   These actions are governed in the State of Illinois by statue.  The statue allows for the following contingency fees upon recovery:

-  33% of the first $150,000 recovered;

-  25% of the next $850,000 recovered; and

-  20% of all funds received over $1,000,000.

The expenses and costs are also separate and received by the attorney.  The attorney can in certain situations petition the court for additional fees.  However, the courts do not favor granting additional fees. 

3.  Workman's Compensation.  This is another area that is regulated by statute.  The maximum that an attorney can recover is 20% of any sums recovered, plus his expenses and costs.  There are times when the attorney can not even recover the 20% based upon certain conduct of the employer.  The Industrial Commission has a very informative pamphlet they issue for free.  Please contact our office and we will be happy to forward a copy to you.

2.  Domestic Relation Matters.  Most people refer to this area as "divorce."  The truth is this area encompasses more than just divorce work.  The normal and customary manner of compensation is for an hourly rate plus expenses and costs.  At times if a matter is uncontested, a flat fee arrangement can be negotiated.  The law does not allow any type of contingency fee arrangements in this area!

3.  Contract, Corporate or Other Business Related Matters.  When retaining an attorney for any type of business matter, the fee agreement is subject to negotiation between the client and the attorney.  Generally, the agreement is based on an hourly fee,  plus expenses and costs.  The hourly rate will vary greatly and there is no correct hourly rate that one can point to.  Flat fee agreements are also popular.  You can be creative in retaining an attorney and determining how he or she will be compensated.  The only ground rules are that the agreement must be legal and that it does not violate public policy.

     Please keep in mind that the foregoing is a general listing of matters and fee arrangements.  It is not meant to be exhaustive, but merely to give you an idea.

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