How do criminal defense lawyers set their attorneys fees?
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Criminal defense lawyers set their fees based on several factors, one is the ability of the client to pay, the type of offense, prior history… things of that nature. The most important thing to remember, from my perspective, is the client situation.
We cannot have a one size fits all mentality, which is sort of what the government has for the types of crimes that they pursue and things of that nature. What we need to do and what we do, is we work individually with clients which means we try to work out a way that anyone that wants to get a good attorney, that wants our help to get through the process can hire us.
We take credit card payments, we take payment plans, sometimes people pay through other sources. Their parents may pay, relatives may pay. The bottom line is this…when we set a fee, I don’t ever believe I’m doing my job properly if I set a fee so high that the client can’t pay me and still live, still have a house, still have a car, those sorts of things.
At the same time, the fee has to be, at what we see as reasonable. In other words, it’s hard for me to think of a case that took me less than a hundred hours to the end of completion, and it’s not unusual for attorneys to charge several hundred dollars an hour. So when you do the math on that, you come pretty quickly to the realization that for any case that I handle, you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars based on the reasonable billable hours.
Well, I can’t charge twenty five thousand dollars for a misdemeanor prosecution of possession of marijuana, but on more serious offenses, you know what may be seen as unreasonable, even though it took the same amount of time on a marijuana case, seems really reasonable for someone who’s looking at spending the rest of their life in prison for something they did not do.
So all those things come into play when I’m deciding what a reasonable fee will be.