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How much will it cost to hire a lawyer, and what is a retainer anyway?

You probably figure lawyers charge hundreds of dollars an hour. Some of them so. But others work for a portion of the money they get you. This is called a "contingency fee", because whether the lawyer gets paid is contingent on their success handling your claim. Their fee is a percentage of whatever they get for you. If they get nothing they charge you nothing. Let's say you are injured in an accident. The lawyers fee might be 25 percent of the damages they recover. Sometimes contingency fees can go as high as one third. Most jurisdictions set limits on contingency fees in personal injury accidents. You can fire a lawyer who has been working on a contingency fee basis but they still may have a claim on a portion of the money you ultimately recover. Some cases can not be taken on a contingency basis...such as divorces, child custody cases and criminal charges. In these case the lawyer charges by the hour and may require a retainer. That's the advance payment to retain your lawyers services. A "retainer agreement" is a contract that defines the work the lawyer will do, and the hourly fee they will charge. You should always ask for the retainer agreement in writing. How are expenses paid once a lawyer takes your case. More about that in my next report.

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