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The three types of fees

An attorney is entitled to a fee for the legal services he or she provides. The attorney may also be entitled to charge for certain other legal costs. The fee is generally charged in one of three ways:

  1. a flat fee of a fixed amount
  2. a fee charged at an hourly rate
  3. a contingent fee

A flat fee would cover the entire fee for the attorney's work.

A contingency fee, by contrast, is normally a fixed percentage of the total award of monies, if and only if an award is obtained. The lawyer cannot charge a fee if he fails to obtain monies for the client. The attorney is taking a risk, and therefore may claim a larger sum than he or she might normally obtain at an hourly rate. The contingent fee is designed to allow people to obtain legal services they might never be able to afford should they lose the case.

Sometimes, a lawyer may fairly charge, if agreed to with the full knowledge of the client, a fee using more than one of these methods: for example, a contingent fee with the addition of a limited flat fee or hourly charge should the case be lost. Most often, however, a lawyer charges by only one of the three methods.

But how is a client to know whether what a particular lawyer charges for a disability case is the fee normally charged by most lawyers, or is in itself fair and legal?

People with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) in particular often lack the energy to go "comparison shopping", and in any event not all disability lawyers are even familiar with ME/CFS.