Contingency vs. Non-contingency Cases

Will and Estate Law - Spousal Property Petition

What is a contingency case?
In certain areas of law, lawyers will work on a "contingency basis." Contingency is commonly referred to as "no win, no fee," or "no payment upfront," or " we do not get paid unless you get paid." Technically, contingency is a conditional fee agreement stating that your lawyer will receive a percentage of the recovered amount, if you win the case. If you do not win the case, the lawyer will not collect any legal fees.

A case taken upon contingency allows individuals to get legal representation, even if they don't have the means to pay a lawyer at the beginning of the case.

Personal injury cases, accidental claims, property damages cases, class action lawsuits, social security appeal cases and workers' compensation cases are frequently taken on a contingency basis. Lawyers accept a degree of risk when they take a case on contingency. In some cases, a lawyer may decline to take a case because of the risk or because of the expense of the case.

Contingency can refer to case expenses and/or an attorney's time. For example, in some contingency matters, a lawyer will require the client to pay for some direct case expenses such as filing fees, expert opinions or medical treatment, but the time the attorney works on the case will be contingency.

Every case is different. During the consultation your lawyer will discuss with you how the expenses of your case will be handled.


What is a non-contingency case?
Most lawyers take cases on a "non-contingency basis." In non-contingency cases, you are hiring a lawyer to be your legal advocate in your specific legal situation. The lawyer will be paid hourly or with a flat fee agreement and work on your behalf.

In non-contingency cases, lawyers often require a retainer. A retainer is an up-front deposit, which covers a certain number of hours of the lawyer's work. If or when the lawyer exceeds those hours, they may require you to make additional payments. In some cases, if you win your case, you may be able to recover the legal fees from the opposing party.

The amount of a non-contingency retainer depends on the complexity of the case, the estimated time the case will take, the estimated resources the case will require and the experience of the lawyer.

Common types of non-contingency cases are family law cases, criminal cases, business cases, real estate cases, bankruptcy cases, estate planning cases, traffic cases and administrative matters.

Every case is different. During the consultation your lawyer will discuss with you how the expenses of your case will be handled.


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