How Much Does a Lawyer Cost? (2024)

How much does a lawyer cost? Learn how lawyers fees are determined, along with average fees and the common types of fee arrangements.

Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 5 mins
How Much Does a Lawyer Cost? (2024)

Does the idea of hiring a lawyer make you picture dollars flying out of your bank account? Having a lawyer on your side can make a big impact on the success of your legal claims, but that impact comes at a cost. Before you agree to work with a lawyer, it’s important to know just how much that cost will be.

This guide will break down the different types of lawyer fees, when you need to pay them, and the factors that can make your lawyer’s fees higher or lower.

How Much is a Lawyer?

How much do attorneys cost? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. According to a legal industry report by Clio, the national average lawyer fee is $327 per hour. However, this puts lawyers who handle all types of cases and with widely different levels of expertise all into the same bucket.

The cost of hiring a lawyer depends on several factors and could be as little as zero up-front cost to you. Get a free review of your case by filling out the form on this page.

Calculating Lawyer Fees

There are a few different ways lawyers calculate their fees. Let’s look at the three most common calculation methods: by the hour, by flat rate, and by contingency percentage.

Hourly Rates

This is the most common method of calculating attorney fees. In simple terms, the lawyer charges you for the time they spend working on your case. Charges are typically in six minute increments, or 1/10 of an hour.

Hourly rates are used by lawyers in all practice areas. So, exactly how much do lawyers charge per hour? The answer to this depends on the type of cases they handle, their experience level, and other factors that we cover below.

Do I Qualify for

Accident Compensation?
Free Case Review

Flat Fees

A flat fee arrangement means that you pay one set fee in exchange for the attorney handling your case. Flat fees are often used for legal matters that are straightforward and simple to estimate, such as basic wills or uncontested divorces. They are also used to price some legal services, like notarizing a document.

It is important to confirm exactly what is covered in a flat fee arrangement to avoid surprises. For example, a lawyer might quote a flat fee to draw up divorce papers, but not include the court filing fee in what they charge you.

Contingency Fees

When a lawyer accepts your case on a contingency fee, that means that you agree to pay them a percentage of what they recover for your case. In these cases there is often nothing you need to pay to the lawyer until the case is finished.

Personal injury cases are commonly billed with contingency fees. These types of cases include:

According to the American Bar Association, the typical attorney fee percentage in a contingency case ranges from 33% to 40% of the case recovery. Carefully go over your agreement to understand what is included in the contingency fee. You may accrue additional charges for filing fees, document copying, or other administrative costs.

When Do You Have to Pay Lawyer Fees?

Almost as important as understanding how much your lawyer will charge is knowing when those fees are due for payment. Let’s look at a couple of points that are often misunderstood in the billing process.


Your attorney-client relationship often begins after a consultation meeting. This meeting is a chance for the lawyer to get information from you about your case and determine whether they can help you.

A lot of people hesitate to reach out to a lawyer because they wonder - “how much is a lawyer consultation fee?” The good news is that most lawyers offer an initial consultation for free. However, it’s still a good idea to ask about fees before meeting with a lawyer to check whether they will charge a consultation fee.

Fill out the form on this page to set up a consultation with a lawyer near you.


If your lawyer will be working on an hourly fee basis, it is common for them to require you to pay a retainer. A retainer is similar to a down payment on legal services. You pay the retainer at the start of your case before the lawyer starts working. As the lawyer works on your case, they will charge their fees against the retainer.

Once your case is completed, any unbilled money left in the retainer is returned to you. If your lawyer’s fees go beyond the retainer, you may be required to make another retainer payment or the lawyer will bill you for their continuing fees.

Factors That Impact Lawyer Fees

These are the factors that have the largest impact on how much a lawyer charges.


Regions with higher costs of living and business rents will tend to be home to higher lawyer fees. For example, the 2023 average hourly lawyer fee in Mississippi was $217, while it was $358 in New York.

Lawyer Reputation and Experience

Lawyers who are more experienced or part of a large law firm that offers a lot of resources will charge more than newer lawyers and solo practitioners. You will need to decide whether a more knowledgeable lawyer is likely to obtain a better outcome on your case and therefore be worth the difference in cost.

Case Complexity

The more complicated your case, the more it is likely to cost. For example, a simple divorce filing will be much less expensive than a complex premises liability case. Even for a case charged as a flat fee, you should expect to pay more for a case that will require significant lawyer review and work.

Case complexity is also determined by where your case is resolved. If your case can be handled without formal litigation it will typically be less expensive. It usually costs more for a lawyer to represent you in court.

Victoria Pearce, Esq.'s profile picture

Victoria Pearce, Esq.


Victoria is a legal and HR content writer with a background as a practicing attorney in California and Texas.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The average attorney fee for civil litigation is $381 per hour. If your lawyer charges by contingency fee, then the average fee is between 33% and 40% of what the lawyer recovers on your behalf.

  • Hiring a lawyer can be expensive, but the cost often correlates with the lawyer’s quality and effectiveness. You don’t necessarily need to hire the most expensive lawyer, but paying for quality counsel can protect your rights and help you secure a better outcome in the long run.

Stay up to date

Get updates on all of our legal news on lawsuits, research and legal updates.