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Law Office of William J. Dyer

Attorney-at-Law ♦ Counselor ♦ Trial Advocate

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Fee negotiations > Hourly rate fees > Contingent fees > Hybrid fees > Expenses > Referrals >  
Contingent fees

Sometimes I'll agree to take a percentage contingent fee interest in my client's claims — meaning I only get paid when and if my client also recovers. This can only make sense when there's a good prospect of a substantial net recovery, either by way of settlement or through a court judgment.
I can almost never defend a client on a contingent-fee basis.
Contingent-fee arrangements maximize my incentives and align my financial interests more directly with my client's own interests. Depending on the results, my contingent fee may turn out to be either more or less than if I had charged by the hour. But my client need not come out of pocket to pay for my services up front, and he will never pay anything at all for my services if we recover nothing.
I give my clients candid and confidential advice on their prospects, including recommendations whether to settle or not. But my clients always retain the power and authority to either accept or reject settlement proposals, and I will never commit to or reject one without specific instructions from my client.
Expenses:  As in other cases, expenses in contingent-fee matters include "court costs" such as filing, jury, and process service fees; deposition transcript and videography fees; expert witnesses' fees and expenses; parking, travel, and lodging expenses; courier fees; and so forth. See my webpage on expenses in general.
Sometimes on contingent-fee cases, I require an advance deposit to cover our side's projected expenses. I may also require that deposit to be refreshed as it is depleted. If expenses have been covered on a pay-as-you-go basis by the client this way, then there will be no expense reimbursements to deduct at the end of the case, and expenses will not affect the calculation of my fee.

Occasionally, I'll agree to advance some or all of the expenses for a contingent-fee case out of my own pocket. As a general rule, when I've so agreed, my client will only have to repay me out of what we recover, if anything. However, if I've advanced expenses, my fee will be a percentage of the total (gross) amount recovered — not a percentage of the net amount remaining after reimbursing my expenses.
My engagement letter will always make it clear whether I have agreed to advance expenses or whether an advance expense deposit is required.
Contingent percentage rates:  I have no "standard" contingent fee schedule. In any given case, I will evaluate my likely risks and rewards in deciding what terms I'm willing to accept. (See my webpage on fee negotiations generally.)
To reflect, at least roughly, the amount of time I've been obliged to invest on any given case, the percentage rate for my contingent share will typically go up as a case progresses. I usually accept a lower percentage for matters that settle before a lawsuit is filed. The highest percentages are on those cases that actually go to trial, or that are appealed after a trial.
Occasionally clients want to give me an extra incentive to "swing for the fences" and "hit a home run." If so, we may agree that my percentage rate will vary based on the amount recovered — one rate for the bottom tier, and a higher rates for additional tiers.
My engagement letter will always specify the exact percentage terms. At the conclusion of every contingent fee representation, I always provide a detailed written accounting for expenses and for the division of any proceeds.