Often times people are afraid to seek legal advice because they are not sure if they can afford a lawyer. For people who have suffered employment discrimination or who have been wrongfully terminated, the fear of additional expense is a very real concern. Law firms offer several fee structures to help people get a lawyer regardless of their financial background.
Employment Law Cases: Statutory Fees
Legislators have recognized that the cost of bringing a claim may prevent some people from pursuing legitimate discrimination or other employment cases. As a result, several statutes provide that you are entitled to recover your attorney’s fees in addition to your damages. If you bring a claim under some federal antidiscrimination laws, reasonable attorney fees are part of your recovery. See 42 U.S.C. Section 2000e-5(a). Similarly, if you bring a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act for overtime or other pay claims, you may be entitled to recover your legal fees.
If you have a claim covered by statutory attorney’s fees, your lawyer will typically accept only those fees. He or she will prepare a bill for services and include it as part of the settlement or trial damages instead of sending the bill to you. The advantage of this system is that it allows victims of discrimination or unfair pay practices to have high quality legal help while reducing some of the risks for lawyers who might otherwise work on contingency.
Hourly Fees and Retainers
In some cases it makes sense to use an hourly rate rather than a contingency or statutory claim. This is particularly true if the case involves a high risk of failing. A retainer is just an advance deposit towards hourly attorney’s fees. Many lawyers will require payment of a retainer before they begin work.
The Combination Method
In employment law cases, often lawyers will use some sort of mixture of compensation methods. A case may be too high risk to be purely a contingency fee case, but the client may not have the funds to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees. The lawyer agrees to work for a reduced hourly rate in exchange for a reduced contingency fee on any final recovery. This method balances the client’s lack of funds with the attorney’s desire to have some payment security.