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Civil Litigation Costs

Just how much will my litigation cost me?  A question asked by thousands of business owners who are considering filing a complaint.  The answer may not be so well-defined. 

 How a lawyer chooses to accept payment comes down to an attorneys preference or the law firms policy. Ther are four general method on which attorneys may bill you. They are  flat rate, retainer fee, hourly rates, or contingency fee.  Hourly rates are the most common; the attorney bills you for hours spent working your case in court or out.  The retainer arrangement is usually a sum of money paid up front for representation.  Flat rate means that you pay your attorney one flat sum for services, while a contingency fee is paid to the attorney for a favorable outcome.  Those hourly fees are subject to a system entitled the Laffey Matrix.

 Most courts and Lawyers will formulate their charges based on the Laffey Matrix, which calculates the proper hourly rates for attorneys.  The longer your attorney has been practicing the greater the hourly rate.  Also a lawyer may adjust their fees based on the complexity of the case, for example if a patent disagreement arises between eight different companies, as opposed to the same disagreement between two companies the case involving more companies will receive a higher fee.  To top it all off, the fees are different depending on where you live, i.e. attorneys fees in New York City may very well differ from those in Los Angeles, it all depends on you particular issue and the experience of the attorney.

 An example Laffey Matrix showing the hourly rate from five U.S. Cities:

Experience D.C. Sacramento San Francisco Los Angeles Orange County San Diego Hartford New York City
20+ years $425    $323 $434 $434 $434 $361 $378 $421
11–19 years $375    $285 $383 $383 $383 $319 $334 $371
8–10 years $305    $232 $311 $311 $311 $259 $271 $302
4–7 years $245    $186 $250 $250 $250 $208 $218 $243
1–3 years $205    $156 $209 $209 $209 $174 $182 $203
Paralegals $120    $113 $134 $118 $146 $115 $118 $121