Toms River Lawyer Charles Novins Esq. Fees
At this juncture, it is likely you already know that attorneys get paid either by the hour or by taking roughly one-third of the final amount recovered. The two methods are strictly divided under the law by the type of case you have.
Contingency fees in divorce, criminal law, and similar matters are strictly verboten; Hourly rates and up-front pre-payment retainers are the rule and are usually required by law.
Alternatively, it's nearly unheard-of to see an attorney paid hourly if you're seeking compensation for an injury, typically an auto mishap. The attorney on the other side of such cases is undoubtedly paid hourly, and this is not common knowledge because that attorney is usually working on behalf of an insurance company.
There is also a third way; Some smaller matters may be done by way of a "flat fee," where you pay a certain fixed sum, and the attorney agrees to handle the case soup-to-nuts. This is a wager for both sides, since the case may end quickly (meaning you theoretically overpaid) or it may go into extra innings (meaning you got legal services at "below cost," as it were.) It's common, especially with traffic matters and the like, but dodgy, both as business strategy and as client service. So, it is sensibly confined to smaller matters.
If your case has to be hourly-billing, the fees with most attorneys will average about $250 per hour, with some attorneys much higher, others a bit lower. We charge that average rate (with occasional variations specific to case or client,) but keep in mind that the "hourly rate" is based on all sorts of overhead and services that are not billed for directly.
Our firm only charges for time spent by the attorney, not the myriad services of the paralegals, secretaries, and other staff, all of whom must get paid, but not directly by you. It's a truly monumental error to simply "shop" for an attorney based upon the rate. What matters is the cost of the entire case. And presumably, you want the best possible outcome. A better attorney (with a first-rate staff - like ours) can conclude the case faster and with a better outcome, so paying a higher hourly rate can reduce the cost of the entire case - and achieve a better outcome.
Even if your matter does not require the kind of creative and proactive services we provide, the mere act of balancing litigation fees with settlement considerations can get you out of the matter with less expenses. Most firms, no matter how low the hourly rate - and especially when there is a lower rate - have a built-in interest in keeping the case going or generating needless (albeit routine) minutiae instead of trying to get the matter to "Yes!" on all sides as quickly as possible. Anything that needlessly stifles this process is unacceptable in our practice.
In short, we keep our eye on the ball. Unselfish idealists? Hardly. Doing right means doing well, and our clients often recommend us to others or return if and when needed.
In contingency cases, it is also pointless to shop by mere price. Subject to several exceptions, it's one-third of the recovery. First, expenses come off the top. Let's say your lawsuit settled for $1000. Filing fee was $80, and it cost $20 for a subpoena to be served by an officer. In this simplified example, the $100 in expenses is deducted from the total. The law firm gets $300, you get $600, court system essentially gets $100. Secondly, New Jersey law controls fees in some degree, mostly only the extremes. If you win a five-million dollar award, the usual one-third for the law firm is reduced to considerably less pursuant to a type of "consumer protection" statute that attorneys must obey. But "usual one-third" is just what it says for the typical case, where the amounts are in the thousands, not millions. Finally, extraneous expenses can kill your suit before it's born. Medical malpractice suits are notorious for this. Maybe you were malpracticed and injured beyond doubt, and it was documented on video with witnesses. If your injury was only moderately severe, for example a deep cut with accompanying scar, or perhaps a poor diagnosis that put you out of business for a while until corrected, you would need very expensive experts to make a viable claim. If your injuries are estimated at $50,000 , and it would cost that much for experts, (both being quite ordinary circumstances,) neither you nor the attorney stands to benefit financially. You could get justice, but justice doesn't pay your mortgage, feed your children, or allow our law firm to keep its doors open. That system is morally bankrupt, of course, but we didn't set it up. Neither did you, for sure, but this is the current reality, and we ignore it at our peril. Conversely, we abide it silently at far greater peril. Along those lines, you can frequently fight City Hall, and that's one of our specialties. But when you can't....you can't.
Flat fees? Strictly a quality consideration. Plenty of younger and "industrial high-volume" firms get the price of (for example) municipal court down to about $1000, less than we charge. But we believe we get better results. The choice there is yours; In law, as in the marketplace at-large, you tend to "get what you pay for."