How Much Do Massachusetts Criminal Defense Lawyers Cost
You should not let worries about how much a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer will cost stop you from hiring one. If youve been charged with a crime in Massachusetts, you need a lawyer. This article will demystify the financial aspect of hiring a lawyer.
Rates among Massachusetts criminal defense lawyers are competitive. But if you are facing criminal charges, keep in mind that you may not have much time to shop around.
It is certainly worth the effort to try to negotiate a criminal lawyers fee. However, you must ask about this before you hire an attorney. Once you hire someone, it is too late to renegotiate fees.
Busier lawyers with a good reputation may charge more for their time. This does not necessarily mean you will pay more. Experienced attorneys may be more efficient with their time. Dont rule out a lawyer just because the fee is slightly more than others you talk to.
The billing method a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer uses can have just as big an effect on your bottom line as how much the lawyers charge. Most criminal defense lawyers in Massachusetts use one of two billing systems: the hourly fee or the flat fee.
With an hourly fee, also called an hourly rate, the lawyer bills you for the actual time he or she spends working on your case. The longer your case takes to resolve, the more you will pay.
A flat fee is also as it sounds: One price for the lawyers services. The flat fee, however, may not include many other expenses, such as court fees. In addition, there may be one flat fee if you want to plead guilty or work out a plea arrangement and another if you want to go to trial.
You also may have heard of a contingency fee. Personal injury lawyers like to use this one. With this fee, you pay the lawyer based on the outcome of the case. Criminal lawyers do not offer a contingency fee because the profession considers it unethical in cases that may result in jail time and/or financial penalties.
Besides the billing method, other factors can also influence your legal tab, including:
- How much the attorney charges
- How long it takes to resolve your case
- The amount of related legal expenses you will have to pay
Whether your attorney prefers an hourly fee or a flat fee, youre likely to have extra expenses not covered by the lawyers rate. These expenses can include:
- An investigators time
- A paralegals time
- The fee charged by an expert witness
- Travel-related expenses
Hiring a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney by the Hour
If you decide to hire a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney by the hour, the lawyer will ask for a retainer fee. A retainer fee acts as a down payment for the legal services to come. You will then likely receive monthly statements.
Several factors influence the amount of a lawyers hourly fee, including:
- The amount of experience and knowledge lawyer has of Massachusetts criminal law
- The cost of overhead to run the firm or office
- The going rate in the area
Most Massachusetts criminal lawyers who charge by the hour divide the hour into 15- or 6-minute increments. What this means is that the briefest amount of work the lawyer puts in on your case will either cost one-quarter of the hourly rate or one-tenth of the hourly rate
Its a difference that adds up. If your lawyer charges $200, then a 5-minute activity, such as answering an email, will cost $50 for the lawyer who divides the hour into 15-minute increments. But its only a $20 charge for the lawyer who divides the hour into 6-minute increments.
Hiring a Massachusetts Criminal Defense Attorney for a Flat Fee
Some Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys like the flat fee better because it guarantees that they will be paid in full. That doesnt necessarily mean you have to pay one lump sum. Ask about payment plans and what forms of payment are acceptable.
Whether you are in Nantucket or Pittsfield or any spot in between, if you want to hire a lawyer who charges a flat fee, get the attorney to spell out what is included in the price and what is not. You dont want any costly surprises in your billing statement.
Finally, flat fees are rarely refundable This means if you want to switch lawyers halfway through your case, you will most likely lose any money you paid your first lawyer.
Here are some questions to ask about flat fees that will help you understand this form of billing:
- How much is the flat fee?
- Is it refundable?
- What is included? What will I have to pay separately?
- What kind of payment plans do you offer?
- Do you take checks and credit cards?
- Can I extend payments beyond the length of my case?
The Cost of Hiring a Massachusetts Criminal Attorney
Because a lawyers billing methods are so different from other professionals, you need to ask for details while you are still interviewing Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys. Here are some questions that can help:
- Do you charge a flat fee or an hourly fee?
- What is the rate?
- Is there room for negotiation?
- What is included in the fee?
- What other expenses will I have to pay for? Can you give me an estimate for them?
- How and when do you expect payment?
The answers to these questions will reveal exactly how much it costs to hire a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney.