How Are My Legal Fees handled in a Legal Malpractice Case?
The answer to that question depends on the case.
Initially, many attorneys who sue lawyers may require a retainer to evaluate your records to see if there is or is not a case. So many factors go into evaluating a case that it is nearly impossible to make a thorough evaluation of all factors in a short thirty-minute interview. It is even more difficult for most attorneys to make that decision simply based on a phone call or a simple email. Such phone calls or emails simply get the process started.
If the legal malpractice case involves a plaintiff’s personal injury claim, the attorney who agrees to sue your lawyer will often charge a larger percentage fee than your malpracticing lawyer. That is because a legal malpractice case is much harder than a personal injury case and requires much more work than your original claim. Part of that is due to the fact that you have to basically try two lawsuits [Proving legal malpractice].
Some attorneys may additionally charge a retainer to economically justify getting into your case, and may credit that retainer against any percentage recovery.
In addition to any percentage which may be charged, it is common for your new attorney to require you to pay the expenses they incur. Most will make arrangements to advance those expenses. There are some routine expenses you should expect. First, there will always be filing fees, as the court clerk will not normally allow a legal malpractice case to be filed without payment of those fees. An additional normal fee in a legal malpractice case is the cost of hiring an expert witness to testify that your malpractice attorney did not do what a reasonably competent attorney in a similar case would do. While you may feel the malpractice is obvious, normally such an expert is required.
Some types of cases cannot be handled on a percentage fee basis (also called a “contingent fee”). These cases will require a retainer and then will be billed on an hourly basis plus expenses. Since most attorneys—like other professionals—want to fight to protect their reputation even if they are wrong, you can always expect an aggressive defense. We, of course, plan to provide an aggressive offense. When you have both an aggressive offense and defense in a case, the hourly fees can mount up quickly and become quite expensive.
It is essential to talk about the nature of your case with an attorney who is experienced in legal malpractice before deciding you cannot afford to sue your lawyer. A good lawyer can tell you whether or not you have a viable case to pursue and how to effectively and economically pursue your rights.
Most reputable lawyers will have you sign a written employment agreement clearly spelling out the terms of any fees and expenses. In Tennessee, this is required if you are going to pay their fee from a percentage of what you recover. This way, you know on the front end what you can expect.Contact a Tennessee Legal Malpractice Attorney
With over 20 years experience, attorneys Ed Graves and David Day can help you put together a solid case to prove legal malpractice. We understand just how difficult it is to be wronged by an attorney and the many ways it can affect your life. For that reason, we are committed to helping you obtain justice. Attorneys Edward M. Graves, Jr., and David Day are board certified as Diplomates in the field of Legal Malpractice by the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys (which is recognized by the American Bar Association as the certifying board for this area of law in the United States).