Understanding Billing by Attorneys

Understanding invoices by lawyers
Lawyers often refer to the quotation attributed to Abraham Lincoln: “Lawyer’s advice is his share in the trade.” Lawyers must earn their living through billing clients for their advice and expertise in dealing with the complex legal field.

Clients often have no idea how lawyers can bill, and may not understand invoices as soon as they are received. The following may prove helpful if you use a lawyer to do the work for you.


First, such as bills issued by doctors, plumbers, electricians and other service providers, outgoing invoices represent the work done for you, as well as some operating expenses. Common terms associated with legal billing are “hourly rate”, “retainer” and “emergency fee arrangement”.

“Hourly rate” is the amount paid by the lawyer on an hourly basis to perform the work of the client. Hourly billing is the most common billing method used by lawyers.

If you have an hourly billing, you should ask about the time periods that the lawyer will bear. The common way to break the hourly rate of bills is to use tenths of an hour (every 1/10 is a 6-minute interval), or quarters of an hour (every 15 minutes). For example, a 5-minute phone call can be charged either at 1/10 (.10) of an hour, or at. (.25) of an hour, depending on the “minimum bill of attorney”. This difference may greatly affect your invoice, and inquiries should be made at the beginning of the representation. Many lawyers record their time by computer entries, and the invoice that is generated and sent to the client is a summary. If you want to detail your bill, contact the lawyer’s office and ask for it.


Regardless of the type of fee arrangement you enter, it is important for both clients and attorneys to place the fee agreement in writing. This agreement should include the method of billing, hourly or emergency fees, and the concept of “retainer” should be discussed.


is the amount of money paid by the client for legal fees. Such as the first payment, is paid at the beginning of counsel representation, usually when the lawyer bill on an hourly basis. The total services and costs are deducted from the “retainer”, for which further work will be done. You should ask if your lawyer requires a renewal of the recruitment, as well as whether the retainer is “recoverable” or “non-refundable.” Some lawyers feel that any unused part of the retainer will be obtained, due to the lawyer’s skill in achieving the client’s goal. Other lawyers will issue a final bill when the matter is finished, and any unused portion of the retainer will be refunded.

For some legal services, counsel may be able to quote a “flat fee” – a single fee payable once. The type of arrangement of fees usually applies to the preparation of a deed, will, or appearance before the court.

Another method of billing is “emergency fee arrangement”. Simply, the lawyer’s fee depends on winning the case. This arrangement is primarily used for personal injury cases.

It is important to remember that for any lawyer’s bill, you must have a clear understanding of how you pay for the services you receive. Do not be afraid to ask questions and make sure that the order of the drawings is written.