How to Afford and Pay for the Different Lawyer Fees: A Helpful Guide

Updated on January 15, 2022

With 78% of American workers living paycheck to paycheck when emergency situations come up, it can become a bit tricky figuring out how to come up with the extra cash. If you recently have been in need of a lawyer but are not sure how to come up with the money to pay the lawyer fees, you are in the right place.

Keep reading to find out how to pay for an attorney even when you are strapped for cash.

Payment Methods

Before we go into how to afford an attorney for your situation let’s go over the different ways that lawyers charge for their services. 


This payment method is pretty straight forward. Your attorney will give you their hourly rate and will charge you for every hour they spend on your case. Some attorneys will have a minimum number of hours they will charge you for upfront.

Make sure to ask for an estimate of how many hours they think they will spend on your case. Once they give you their estimate you will want to add a few extra hours to your budget to avoid any surprises in the end.


Your attorney might ask you to pay a certain amount upfront to begin working on your case. This is considered your deposit and your attorney will pull money from that “deposit” for each hour that they work. Typically they charge you their hourly rate out of the retainer. 

Once the case is complete if there is any money left in the retainer they will return it to you. It’s important to have good communication with your attorney to make sure that you know how much money is left. 


This method is when your lawyer agrees to a payment only if they achieve a specific outcome. Law offices like might agree to this type of payment in personal injury cases or wrongful death. With this payment plan if your lawyer does not win the case then they do not get paid a cent.

This payment method definitely gives your attorney the incentive to work hard to get you the outcome that you deserve and are looking for.

Fixed Fees

Some attorneys will have fixed flat rates for specific cases. For example, they might charge a certain amount for a divorce case, or a child support case. This gives you a specific amount to work with and helps you have peace of mind that you will not have any surprises once the case is done. 

Can’t Afford Your Lawyer Fees?

There are a few options in the case that you fall into the statistic of living paycheck to paycheck. The key here is, to be honest when you meet with a potential lawyer about your finances.

Ask for a Contingency Fee

If you are tight on money or do not have enough in savings to pay a lawyer then a contingency fee might be your best friend. Talk to your lawyer during your consultation about paying them a percentage of your winnings once they win the case. 

This means that you won’t have to pay them a penny upfront and if they do not win your case they won’t get paid. They will fight hard for you because it is in their best interest. 

Keep in mind that contingency fees are not allowed for all cases. The Bar Association does not allow contingency fees to be used in custody cases or criminal cases even if the attorney is open to it. If your case qualifies for contingency fees then, by all means, ask for this payment method. 

Pro Bono

This is another option when money is tight. You will have to call around and ask for free legal help and believe it or not you will find someone that is willing to help you and your case. The American Bar Association says that lawyers have a professional responsibility to help those that are not able to pay them. 

The American Bar Association also urges lawyers to perform 50 hours of free also known as pro bono services every year. 

Payment Plans

If you have some of the money to give upfront but not the whole amount it does not hurt to ask if you can set up a payment plan. There are some law firms that offer payment plans spread across a few months to make payments more affordable for their clients.

Keep in mind that not all law firms offer payment plans but it does not hurt to ask.

Local Legal Aid Office

You can look for local law firms in your area that work on a sliding-scale system. There are nonprofit organizations that offer reduced rates for legal services that are based on your income. The less money you make the less money you pay. 

Time to Find an Attorney to Fight on Your Side

Now that you have the knowledge of the different types of payment methods you have to pay for lawyer fees and different ways to come up with the money, it is time to start your search. This is going to take some time and research. Make sure to do your homework to ensure that you find a lawyer to help you out. 

Effective legal representation is important to have because fighting a case alone without knowledge of all the laws is always risky business. It’s like doing taxes yourself without an accountant that knows the ins and outs. 

Found this blog post helpful? Come back soon for more great posts! 

The Editorial Team at Healthcare Business Today is made up of skilled healthcare writers and experts, led by our managing editor, Daniel Casciato, who has over 25 years of experience in healthcare writing. Since 1998, we have produced compelling and informative content for numerous publications, establishing ourselves as a trusted resource for health and wellness information. We offer readers access to fresh health, medicine, science, and technology developments and the latest in patient news, emphasizing how these developments affect our lives.