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How much does an Ohio attorney charge?

Updated: Apr 30

Ohio attorneys charge fees in different manners based upon the type of matter and the complexity of the matter; however, most charge about Three Hundred Dollars ($300.00) per hour. Ohio attorneys cannot charge a contingency fee (only pay if you win) in criminal or domestic relations matter.

Attorneys sometimes charge contingency fees, flat fees, retainers, hourly, and/or allow payment plans. Here we'll outline each and what types of fees individuals can expect in different types of matters, as well as the risks from the client perspective.

1.00. Contingency Fees.

Again, attorneys cannot charge a contingency fee (only pay if you win) in criminal or domestic relations matter.

Contingency fees are fees paid only if the represented party is successful. These are often found in civil matters for auto accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home malpractice, etc.

Those fees routinely range from twenty-five percent (25%) to forty-five percent (45%), and those fees are usually taken off the top-line of the settlement or verdict. For example: a One Hundred Thousand Dollar ($100,000.00) settlement would pay an attorney with a twenty-five percent (25%) fee Twenty-five Thousand Dollars ($25,000.00), and the client is often expected to pay the expenses too (i.e. experts, court reporter fees, medical records fees, etc.)

Some matters have an inherently high value by the nature of the cause of action, so the specific attorney may not actually be able to bring much value to the action. In such a case, the percentage should be negotiated down to ensure the family is appropriately compensated who suffered the loss rather than the attorney.

If an attorney refuses to charge a contingency fee in a civil action, the client should consider it an indication of a lower probability of success.

2.00. Flat Fees.

Flat fees are generally reserved for actions the lawyer routinely performs and for which the attorney has a precise knowledge of how much work will be required.

Sometimes those fees may be as little as Four Hundred Fifty Dollars ($450.00) for a traffic matter or Two Hundred Fifty Dollars ($250.00) for a letter. It may be Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) for a divorce not including trial. However, on a murder case, they may be Fifty Thousand ($50,000.00) or more just for the pre-trial phase of the matter not including experts and investigation costs.

Sometimes a helpful guide for clients is for them to see what the maximum fine is they face for a criminal matter. Another helpful frame is to understand how much time one faces in prison on a criminal matter and consider the amount of money someone would normally earn from their job in that time.

The client's danger is that the attorney is receiving a continually diminishing hourly rate of return on investment. It often rewards attorneys for working less on a matter.

3.00. Retainers.

Individuals sometimes state they want to "keep you on retainer", so they can just call when they have a question or need. This is not common or practicable for the average individual or average law firm.

The more common practice is for the law firm to require a retainer on the front-end for a specific matter. Then the attorney may bill hourly against that retainer and the client must pay to replenish that retainer on a monthly basis. Our practice is to hold the retainer in our trust account and only apply portions if the client fails to pay. The expectation is that the client pays each invoice, then the balance of the retainer is refunded at the end of the case.

4.00. Hourly.

Hourly billing is a common practice for most attorneys on many types of matters. They may bill in quarter (.25) hour increments (i.e. 15 minutes), or they may bill in tenths (.10) of an hour (i.e. 6 minute increments). Admittedly, I have heard of attorneys billing in half-hour increments (.5) (i.e. 30 minutes); however, that is certainly discouraged.

Clio is a legal SaaS company that provides industry metrics on hourly rates. In 2023, Clio reported in its Legal Trends Report that since 2016 attorneys hourly rates raised by twenty-eight percent (28%) from Two Hundred Fifty-six Dollars ($256.00) to Three Hundred Twenty-seven Dollars ($327.00) in August 2023. Meanwhile, paralegals, investigators, and other non-licensed legal professionals increased nineteen percent (19%) in the same time period from One Hundred Fifty Dollars ($150.00) to One Hundred Seventy-eight Dollars ($178.00) over the same time period.

Interestingly, that Clio report indicates the attorney rate increase was a zero percent (0%) increase relative to the Consumer Price Index (CPI), and the non-attorney rate increase was actually still negative eight percent (-8%) compared to the CPI.

The Clio report indicated the average attorney rate for family law matters to be Three Hundred Twelve Dollars ($312.00) per hour. Traffic offenses to be Three Hundred Eighteen ($318.00) per hour.

Separately, on their website, Clio indicated that the average Ohio attorney charges between One Hundred Twenty-four Dollars ($124.00) and Four Hundred Seventy-four Dollars ($474.00) per hour.

5.00. Payment Plans.

Some attorneys may permit a payment plan. Payment plans may be based upon complexity, the nature of the matter, the attorney's availability, the client's ability to pay, or other factors.

They are sometimes as a fixed amount per month, and sometimes that may be used to pay on a balance already accumulated, sometimes it is a set fee per month for services rendered, and sometimes it is paying forward into the future to accumulate money for future services rendered. These can be very flexible but will likely depend upon the attorneys willingness or his/her office's practice.

Generally, attorneys have found payment plans to be the least probable method to ensure payment; however, if you owe your attorney money, any payment is better than no payment.

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