Your fee agreement should set out the services the lawyer will perform for you, as well as the type and amount of fees you will be expected to pay. The agreement should also spell out your obligations as a client (e.g., you may agree to be truthful and cooperative, to abide by the agreement, and pay your bills on time), as well as how the court fees and miscellaneous expenses of your case will be handled, explain the lawyer's billing practices, and state whether the lawyer is going to add interest or other charges to unpaid amounts.
You should make the fee agreement with your lawyer in the same way that you would make an agreement with a contractor or other businessperson—tell the lawyer what services you will want and ask questions to find out what the charges will be. Ask a friend or relative to come with you if you are not sure what to ask.
Some questions you may want to ask include:
- How will the lawyer bill for his or her time?
- Who else will be working on the case—associate lawyer, legal assistant, or paralegal? How will that time be billed?
- What can be done to reduce fees and costs?
- What is the lawyer's estimate of the total charges?
Keep in mind that an estimate is just a ballpark figure on what the fees and costs will be. The total amount is subject to change as circumstances change. The lawyer may have a pre-printed fee agreement for you to sign. However, you can always ask the lawyer to change parts of the agreement or make up a new one especially for your situation.
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