Defense lawyers

Are Defense Lawyers Paid by the Outcome of the Case?

Defense lawyersIf you are currently the defendant in a criminal case in the State of Tennessee, and this is the first time you have ever been in this situation, you are likely feeling both worried and confused. Anyone in your position would be worried about the outcome of their case. Likewise, most people who suddenly find themselves embroiled in the criminal justice system also feel confused and unsure what to do next. What you, or anyone in your situation, should do next is to retain the services of an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney to protect your rights and defend you throughout the prosecution of your case. Hiring a defense attorney, however, may also be an intimidating process for you. You may have a number of questions about hiring an attorney and about what criminal defense attorneys actually do once retained. You may also wonder how your fee will be determined. For example, are defense lawyers paid by the outcome of the case?

Types of Attorney Fees

For the most part, individual attorneys, or law firms, determine their own fee schedule as well as the type of fees they will collect from clients without interference from any governing authority. There are, however, a few important exceptions to that general rule. There are three basic types of attorney fees that can be used by an attorney:


  • Hourly fee – as the name implies, when an attorney charges a client fees by the hour it means that your fee, as the client, will be determined based on the amount of time the attorney actually spends on your case. Typically, when an attorney charges by the hour you will be required to pay an initial retainer fee against which the attorney will bill his or her time. The amount of the retainer fee is determined based on how much time the attorney expects to spend on your case. When the retainer runs out you will need to replenish it. Most civil litigation is handled using an hourly rate fee system.
  • Flat fee – a flat fee means the attorney will charge you a predetermined fee without regard to the amount of time spent on your case. Flat fees are often charged by criminal defense attorneys because they tend to handle very similar cases over and over again, making it relatively easy to determine how much to charge ahead of time.
  • Contingency fee – a contingency fee means the attorney will receive a percentage of any monetary award or settlement the attorney is able to acquire for the client. Contingency fee arrangements are commonly used in personal injury cases. The attorney, for example, might be entitled to one-third of the award or settlement the attorney is able to secure for the client.


Can Criminal Defense Lawyers Charge a Contingency Fee?

In essence, a contingency fee is based on the outcome of the case because the lawyer receives nothing if the lawyer is unable to secure any money for the client. The Nebraska Rules of Professional Conduct govern, to some extent, the fees attorneys are allowed to collect from clients. Although attorneys have a wide latitude to set their own fees, there are some restrictions. Accepting a contingency fee in a criminal case is one of those exceptions. Rule 1.5 specifically prohibits the collection of a contingency fee in a criminal case, stating:

(d) A lawyer shall not enter into an arrangement for, charge, or collect:

(1) any fee in a domestic relations matter, the payment or amount of which is contingent upon the securing of a divorce or upon the amount of alimony or support, or property settlement in lieu thereof; or

(2) a contingent fee for representing a defendant in a criminal case. (Emphasis added)

This means that a criminal defense attorney cannot set a fee that differs depending on whether you are convicted or not, whether you receive a term of imprisonment or not, or on anything else related to the outcome of your case.

Contact Us

If you have been charged with a criminal offense in the State of Tennessee, it is in your best interest to consult with the experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorneys at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby. Contact the team today by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.

Dinah Michael