Before you, the prospective client, retain a lawyer, you should understand your rights as a client.
There is no legal requirement that a lawyer charge a client a set fee or a percentage of money recovered in a case. You, the client, have the right to talk with your lawyer about the proposed fee and to bargain about the rate or percentage as in any other contract. Be aware that the fee for a criminal matter will be either a set fee or on an hourly basis.
The law may require you, the client, to pay in advance a retainer for expenses and fees. This retainer is to be held in a clients escrow account and be withdrawn as used.
Any contingency fee contract must be in writing and you have three (3) business days to reconsider the contract. You may cancel the contract without any reason if you notify your lawyer in writing within three (3) business days of signing the contract. If you withdraw from the contract within the first three (3) business days you do not owe the lawyer a fee although you may be responsible for the lawyer's actual costs during that time. If your lawyer begins to represent you, your lawyer may not withdraw from the case without giving you notice, delivering necessary papers to you, and allowing you time to employ another lawyer. Often, your lawyer must obtain court approval before withdrawing from a case. If you discharge your lawyer without good cause after the three-day period, you may have to pay a fee for work the lawyer has done.
Before hiring a lawyer, you, the client, have the right to know about the lawyer's education, training and experience. If you ask, the lawyer should tell you specifically about his or her actual experience dealing with cases similar to yours. If you ask, the lawyer should provide information about special training or knowledge and give you this information in writing if you request it.
Before signing a contingency fee contract with you, a lawyer must advise you whether he or she intends to handle your case alone or whether other lawyers will be helping with the case. If your lawyer intends to refer the case to other lawyers he or she should tell you what kind of fee sharing arrangement will be made with the other lawyers.
If your lawyer intends to refer your case to another lawyer or counsel with other lawyers, your lawyer should tell you about that at the beginning. If your lawyer takes the case and later decides to refer it to another lawyer or to associate with other lawyers, you should sign a contract, which includes the new lawyers.
You, the client, have the right to know in advance how you will need to pay the expenses and the legal fees at the end of the case. If you pay a deposit in advance for costs, you may ask reasonable questions about how the money will be or has been spent and how much of it remains unspent. Your lawyer should give a reasonable estimate about future necessary costs. If your lawyer agrees to lend or advance you money to prepare or research the case, you have the right to know periodically how much money your lawyer has spent on your behalf.
You, the client, have the right to be told by your lawyer about possible adverse consequences if you lose the case. Those adverse consequences might include money, which you have to pay to your lawyer for costs and liability you might have for attorney's fees to the other side. You might be subject to incarceration in criminal matters.
You, the client, have the right to receive and approve a closing statement at the end of the case before you pay any money. The statement must list all of the financial details of the entire case, including the amount recovered, all expenses, and a precise statement of your lawyer's fee.
You, the client, have the right to ask your lawyer, and should ask, if he does not keep you informed, at reasonable intervals, how the case is progressing and to have your questions answered to the best of your lawyer's ability.
You, the client, have the right to make the final decision regarding settlement of a case. Your lawyer must notify you of all offers of settlement before and after the trial. However, you must make the final decision to accept or reject a settlement.
Remember, the law works for you, the client.
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