When you hire a contingency lawyer, it means at least some of the lawyer’s fees will be from the eventual payment by the defendant/judgment debtor.
Whenever you ask a lawyer to work for you on a contingency basis, you are asking them to take on a financial risk. If the case is not won, or the judgment is not recovered, the lawyer might get nothing. In all cases, a contingency lawyer will consider the available assets of the judgment debtor.
One may be able to find a contingency lawyer to sue an entity to get a judgment, or to recover an existing judgment. When the judgment debtor/defendant is rich, the lawyer may front all the expenses, including their hourly rate. When the judgment debtor/defendant is not wealthy, lawyers are more likely to require you to front some or all of the expenses.
Another factor, is how much a contingency lawyer charges. Those that charge 50% may pay all fees, those who charge 30% may require you to pay all the expenses up front.
It is very important to carefully read the lawyer’s contingency agreement so you will not get surprised later. Make sure you understand what you will pay for success, and also for failure. Make sure to know what happens, and how much it will cost, if you want to give up, or hire a different lawyer.
Often, whether you win or lose, you still have to pay something, everything depends on the details of the retainer agreement.
The best place to find a pre-judgment contingency lawyer may be your local legal state bar. The best way to find a post-judgment expert is by using a judgment broker.
The only disadvantage to hiring a contingency lawyer (if you can find one to take your case on contingency) is that you must give up a sizeable percentage of any recovery or settlement. Also, all expenses will also come out of your share of the recovery. There are many advantages to hiring a contingency lawyer, including:
A) You can find excellent representation (a good and expensive lawyer) that would normally be out of your financial reach.
B) If you lose the lawsuit or there is no recovery, sometimes you do not have to pay the lawyer at all.
C) If you win, but the recovery is paid over time with a structured settlement, you only have to pay your lawyer as you get paid.
D) Your attorney may work harder if paid on contingency, because their fee is at stake.
E) Because your lawyer will not be getting paid by the hour, you can have more interaction, without being worried about “watching the clock”.
F) If you are paying by the hour, the other side is more likely to use delay tactics to try to exhaust your funds.
The retainer agreement you sign with your lawyer almost certainly will explain that the lawyer is owed for at least some of their work if you want your case or judgment back. Most often, when a lawyer does not make progress on a judgment recovery, it’s because the debtor has no available assets to recover from.
If you think your lawyer is cheating you, ask them about it, and try to work it out. Most of the time, you will charged exactly what your retainer agreement specified. If you want to get a second opinion, contact your local state bar for another lawyer, for a second opinion.
Make sure you fully understand any legal agreement or arrangement you enter into on any transaction, especially with a lawyer.