In most areas of the law, more experienced attorneys tend to charge more than less experienced attorneys. At law firms that charge hourly rates, junior attorneys will bill at a much lower rate than senior partners with decades of practice.
A notable exception is with personal injury law. Most personal injury cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis, which means that the lawyer or firm is only entitled to a fee if a recovery is obtained. While the exact percentage may vary from firm to firm, in most cases any difference is due to firm marketing and expectations about the amount of work that the lawyer may put into the case, not about the experience of the lawyer.
As a result, it is very common that a lawyer with only a few years of legal practice will charge the same percentage contingency fee as an attorney with decades of practice. Assuming that the contingency fee is the same, it very well may be in a client’s best interest to choose the lawyer with much more practice and experience over the one with less practice and experience.
If one lawyer charges a 25% contingency fee and another charges 33%, it’s tempting to think that you’ll benefit by 8% in retaining the lower-priced lawyer. Often this is not the case.
A primary factor in the amount received by clients in most cases is the size of the settlement or jury award, not the contingency fee rate.
In two identical cases, one may settle for $100,000 with a 25% contingent fee and another may settle for $500,000 with a 35% contingent fee. In the first case, the client’s lawyer will make $25,000, and the client will receive $75,000. In the second case, the lawyer will make $175,000, and the client will receive $325,000.
Clearly the client in the second case is much better off than the first case, even though the client’s lawyer will have also received significantly more money.
In almost all cases, your best option will be to go with the lawyer who you think has the experience, tenacity, and resolve to litigate tenaciously on your behalf and who will be in the best position to get you full compensation. Percentage fee differences in almost all cases will not matter as much as the legal ability of the lawyers.
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