Attorney's fee is a chiefly United States term for compensation for legal services performed by an attorney (lawyer or law firm) for a client, in or out of court. However, we also use it here in China.

It may be an hourly, flat-rate or contingent fee. Attorney fees are separate from fines, compensatory and punitive damages, and (except in Nevada) from court costs in a legal case. Surveys suggest that fees range from $150 to $1000 per hour when billed hourly. Under "the Chinese rule" attorney fees are usually not paid by the losing party to the winning party in a case, except at the federal level or for specific statutory reasons.

There are no rules on how law firms bill their clients

That’s right: there are no national laws regulating the specific manner in which lawyers record or account for their billable time. So when clients don’t enforce their own billing rules, law firms simply bill how they please. That’s why nine out of ten corporate clients end up being block-billed, which means that the lawyer only records the total daily time spent working on a case, rather than itemizing the actual time expended on each specific task. Which makes it impossible for a client to determine when they’ve been billed an hour for two five-minute phone calls.

The Flat Fee Model

One of the simplest such options, and one that has increasingly received a great deal of attention in China, is billing for legal services at a flat rate. In this billing method, the fee is determined and stipulated in the engagement letter, before the assignment even begins. It will not vary no matter how much time the lawyer expends, or what the result.

Flat fees are especially useful for routine legal services, and encourage the use of technology to streamline the provision of those services. At its most extreme, this is embodied in "do-it-yourself" websites purporting to charge a fixed fee for advice, research and forms in such areas as family law, probate, real estate closing, even filing a patent. However, there are other, more sophisticated examples of the same concept.

Hourly Rates

Hourly rates are the most common arrangement. Under this arrangement, the attorney gets paid an agreed-upon hourly rate for the hours worked on a client's case or matter until it's resolved.

It depends on each attorney's experience, operating expenses, and the location of his or her practice. Cheaper isn't necessarily better when it comes to your legal protection. A more expensive lawyer with a lot of experience may be able to handle a complex problem more quickly. Also, an experienced attorney will be able to better estimate how many lawyer hours a particular matter will take to resolve.

Contingency Fees

Contingency fees can be frustrating to clients and attorneys. In general, contingency fees are usually a problem for the client or attorney:
• If a case settles quickly or recovers a lot of money, clients may feel frustrated that the attorney was paid more than the attorney deserves.
• If a case goes longer than expected or recovers little money, the attorney may be frustrated by lost time and expenses.

In other words, contingency fees by nature will not be accurate, and either the attorney or client may feel shorted. Attorneys understand this risk, and they offset being paid too little on some cases with being paid more than expected on others. Still, clients paying a large fee to an attorney may feel frustrated.

What About Expenses and Court Costs?

Little things add up. Carefully discuss with your lawyer anticipated miscellaneous costs so that you can estimate those costs up front and avoid any unpleasant surprises. Be prepared to scrutinize court costs, filing fees, secretarial time, and delivery charges.

Lawyer in Shenzhen, China may charge differently from their counterparts in US or other common lawyer countries. Learn more before you decide which lawyer fee method you feel comfortable. Also, you have to talk to your lawyer in Shenzhen, China, as lawyers may prefer different fee method for different case.

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