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A significant concern for a client in seeking legal representation is the issue of attorney fee arrangements. There are different types of attorney fee arrangements, including, but not limited to, pro bono, contingency fees, retainer fees, statutory fees, and flat fees. These types vary in their functions, and their applicability depends on the type of legal work to be done.  Often the terms contingent fees and pro-bono are misunderstood in their meaning and function. This article discusses what each of these terms is and how they might apply to your needs.

Are Pro Bono and Contingent Fees Arrangements the Same?

No, pro bono and contingent fee arrangements are not the same.

There are several standard legal fee arrangements and alternatives available to lawyers and their clients. Typically, the type of legal fee arrangement depends on the legal issues at hand. However, contingent fee arrangements are a type of legal fee arrangement. At the same time, pro-bono refers to a program that renders some of the lawyer’s legal services accessible to a specific client.

What are Contingency Fees Arrangements?

Contingency fees are a type of legal fee arrangement that applies where a lawyer’s fee is calculated based on the amount awarded in the case. Generally, a lawyer’s fee is paid based on an agreed-upon fixed percentage of the awarded amount. Under this type of fee arrangement, the lawyer would only be paid if they had successfully handled the case, so a lawyer would not be able to collect their legal fee if they are unsuccessful. However, expenses incurred by the lawyer in handling the case, including, but not limited to, court fees, investigation fees, costs incurred to gathering evidence, and similar expenses, would still have to be paid by the client even if the case was not successful.

Since this type of legal fee arrangement is based on how much a lawyer could successfully obtain for their client, this agreement could only be applied in lawsuits where monetary compensation is awarded. Moreover, it is essential to remember that this type of fee arrangement cannot be used in criminal and child custody cases.

What is a Pro Bono Agreement?

Unlike a contingency fee arrangement, a fee agreement, pro bono legal services are a complete non-payment situation. It is an arrangement that the American Bar Association encourages lawyers to participate in. Under this program, an attorney may represent a client without any expectation of compensation, whether the case is successful or not.

In contrast, a client is expected to pay the lawyer’s fees under the contingency fee arrangement in a successful case. In a pro bono agreement, a lawyer does not take any fees even if they had successfully secured an award for the case.

Moreover, it is essential to know that even though there are many pro-bono programs available for civil matters, obtaining the representation of a lawyer in a pro-bono arrangement is not a right in a civil case. More so, pro-bono programs may impose conditions for a potential client to qualify to be represented by a pro bono attorney.

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