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Attorney Fees in Collection Cases

When you hire an attorney to help you collect a debt, you can expect to pay your legal fees in one of two ways: contingency or hourly. Lawyers who work on a contingency basis get paid a percentage (usually around 33.3%, but that can vary) of what you recover – and nothing if you lose. Others will work for an hourly fee, where you pay a lump sum up front (a "retainer"), and the attorney withdraws money from the retainer as he or she does the work.

Contingency arrangements are a risk-reward situation for the attorney. If your case is large, your lawyer has the opportunity to earn a large fee – one that would be greater than what they would have earned by charging you hourly. However, if you lose your case, the attorney gets nothing despite the hours of work they put in.

Because of the risk of getting paid nothing, lawyers won't take just any case on a contingency basis. They will be looking to make it worth the risk which usually means they want to make sure the case is winnable. Someone may owe you a large sum, say $250,000, but that doesn't mean it's a good case. If the odds of collecting on it are slim – for example, maybe the person owing the debt is headed for bankruptcy – then there is no incentive for an attorney to take the case on a contingency basis.

For most cases, especially those that are somewhere in the Chicago area, we can usually find a lawyer willing to take the case on a contingency basis, even if the amount owed is relatively small.

Sometimes the client doesn't want to pay a percentage, but rather wants to pay the hour. In that case, they give the lawyer some money up front which is called a retainer fee. That money is like a debit card that the lawyer uses to deduct payment for time they've spent working on the case. In addition, there are some collection law firms that only take cases where they get paid win or lose. Of course, we would only recommend one of those lawyers if that is what you as the client preferred.

For the client, both fee arrangements have pros and cons. If you are owed a large debt, you might prefer an hourly arrangement so that you can keep most of what you recover. But don't forget that you will need to put down a retainer up front, probably several thousand dollars. If you can't afford to pay a retainer up front, you might prefer to pay on a contingency basis. However, you could end up paying a higher fee this way. You and your attorney will agree on a fee arrangement at the beginning of your case – we always recommend that you get this agreement in writing.

Sometimes, if you win, you can ask the court to order the other party to pay your attorney's fees. However, it's not guaranteed. You would still have to pay up front and hope to get reimbursed later.

If you are owed a debt – large or small – we can help you find an honest, experienced attorney to help you get paid. We know collection attorneys in Cook, DuPage, Lake, McHenry and many other counties across the state. Give us a call, or send us an e-mail. It's completely free to contact us, and we are confident that we can help find the best Illinois attorney for your needs. We don't promise a result, but do promise that we only recommend lawyers that have a track record of success and that we'd be willing to hire ourselves.