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Lawyers’ fees run high and can add up quickly. In many cases, you may need to pay for your lawyer’s retainer fee upfront, which can run into the thousands of dollars. If you need a lawyer and have no money, you may want to consider a personal loan.
The right loan provider offers enough funds to cover your legal expenses with rates and terms that fit your monthly budget. Since personal loans are one of the more expensive ways to pay for a lawyer, we also include free options like a contingency fee or legal payment plan before you apply.
These lenders offer funds you can use to cover the cost of a lawyer. Comparing options to find the best fit for a legal loan.
We update our data regularly, but information can change between updates. Confirm details with the provider you're interested in before making a decision.
These factors may impact your ability to get a loan for a lawyer:
Legal fees fall into three main categories with different payment structures:
In addition to these fees, you may also be on the hook for a consultation fee, retainer fee, referral fee or statutory fee.
Here are seven of the most common fees you might run into when consulting with or using a lawyer and what you can expect to pay.
Either a fixed or hourly fee for your first meeting with your lawyer, typically paid upfront. Lawyers generally require a consultation before you decide to use their services. You typically don’t need to pay this if you have a flat-fee case.
There are two main types of retainer fees. Either it’s a set fee you pay into an account that your lawyer withdraws from as costs build up. It could also act as a down payment on your lawyer’s services and establishes that they’re working on your case.
An attorney’s average cost per hour is $313, according to the Clio 2022 Legal Trends Report. However, rates vary widely depending on the state and type of practice. DC, New York and Delaware have the highest average hourly rates — with bankruptcy, intellectual property and tax law commanding the highest rates.
|Practice area||Lawyer cost per hour|
|Wills & estates||$308|
A fee that covers the total cost of your case, common with cut-and-dry cases like an uncontested divorce or drawing up a will. For example, an uncontested divorce flat fee could range from $200 to $1,500, while the fee for estate planning could range from $300 to $1,200.
You agree to pay your lawyer a portion of the amount you’re awarded in your case — if you win. Some lawyers offer this fee on a sliding scale, depending on how long it takes to settle the case.
A fee you pay to a lawyer for referring you to other legal representation, usually in the form of a percentage of the total fees your new lawyer earns. Referral fees are restricted to specific situations in some states. Visit your local bar association’s website for more details about when a referral fee is appropriate.
A fee set either by a statute or a court that covers your legal costs. Sometimes it’s a percentage of your earnings in a case or a flat rate. Statutory fees are common in bankruptcy or inheritance cases.
The most straightforward way to pay legal fees is out of pocket. But that’s not always possible, especially if you didn’t expect to need a lawyer. In those situations, you might want to consider one of the following options.
Personal line of credit
When you’re not sure how long you will need to pay legal fees, you might want to look into personal lines of credit. Instead of borrowing a set amount of funds once, you get access to a line of credit that you can borrow from at any time.
You only have to pay interest or fees on the amount you draw and can typically renew your credit line as many times as you want. Maximum credit lines vary by lenders, though many offer access to up to $50,000.
Hoping to win a settlement? You might want to ask your lawyer if they’d be willing to work your case for a contingency fee. Instead of paying your fees upfront and out of pocket, a contingency fee allows you to pay your lawyer a percentage of the damages you’re paid.
Contingency fees are generally not available for divorce cases, small settlements, criminal cases or child custody cases.
Awards of attorneys’ fees
Awards of attorneys’ fees work almost exactly like contingency fees. The difference is that instead of your lawyer taking a percentage of your damages, the court orders the defendant to pay your legal fees. This is generally only an option if your lawyer thinks you have a strong legal case.
Legal funding works like a cash advance, where a litigation funding company gives the plaintiff money in exchange for a predetermined settlement amount. This way, you’ll have the cash upfront with no risk to you, while the litigation funding company takes on the risk in hopes of a return on its investment.
Legal payment plans
Ask your lawyer if they’d be willing to draw up a legal payment plan to help you cover the cost of your case. Many have standard legal plans — and not all charge interest or extra fees. Some are also willing to accept a partial upfront payment plus smaller installments over time.
This could potentially be an easier, less expensive option than third-party financing, like a personal loan, if you have poor or no credit. That’s because you might not need to prove your creditworthiness to qualify, and you’ll have more room to negotiate your terms. The downside is you could lose your legal representation if you fall behind on payments.
Trying to keep costs down? Reach out to your social network to raise money for your legal fees. You’ll likely pay the platform a percentage of the funds you earn, so factor in platform costs when you’re setting your goal.
Platforms like Funded Justice specialize in raising money specifically for legal cases. However, some people are more comfortable going with name brands like Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
Sometimes the easiest way to pay a one-time legal fee like a consultation is to put it on your credit card. Most law firms accept them, and it’s an easy way to meet spending minimums and earn miles or points.
You’ll want to pay it off quickly to avoid accumulating interest, since credit card rates are usually higher than personal loan rates. On top of that, having a high balance can lower your credit score.
Pro bono lawyer
Lawyers sometimes reduce their fees or waive them entirely on cases that they think could generate a lot of press or for low-income clients. Some law firms even require lawyers to take on a certain number of pro bono cases each year.
To find a pro bono lawyer near you, check out the American Bar Association’s list of pro bono programs in your state.
Local legal aid office or nonprofit organization
If you’re having a hard time finding a pro bono lawyer, another option is to contact your local legal aid office. These are typically nonprofit agencies that provide free legal help to individuals who can’t afford to hire a lawyer. You might be able to get help with cases involving domestic violence, child custody, eviction, public benefits, immigration or disability issues.
Find a legal aid office near you by visiting Legal Services Corporation, an independent nonprofit set up by Congress to provide financial support to low-income Americans.
Friends and family
Or, contact your relatives and close friends for help covering your legal fees. You might not have to pay interest, and if you do, it’ll probably be a low rate. Just be aware that you could damage your personal relationships if you can’t pay it back.
Follow these pointers to keep your legal fees down:
Legal fees can deplete your savings and hurt your finances if you’re not prepared. If you can’t find a lawyer to work pro bono and don’t expect a settlement, a personal loan can be a reasonable solution for any case. Compare lenders and learn more about how they work with our guide to the best personal loans.
Answers to common questions about financing your legal expenses.
Are legal fees tax-deductible?
Not usually. You can sometimes deduct attorney fees if that attorney was involved in making you money that you pay taxes on — like legal fees from an IRS audit. If you think you might be eligible for a deduction, consult a tax attorney or accountant.
Do I always have to pay a consultation fee the first time I meet a lawyer?
No, not always. Lawyers generally don’t charge consultation fees on a flat-fee case. Sometimes it depends on the length of your consultation. For example, I got a free consultation with a lawyer because our initial meeting lasted less than 15 minutes. If it had lasted longer, I would have had to pay a consultation fee.
What happens if I don’t win a settlement and my lawyer agreed to a contingency fee?
You’ll likely still be on the hook for your lawyer’s hourly fees outside of the contingency agreement, so make sure you’re prepared to cover those costs if things don’t work out as you had hoped.
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