What You Can Expect to Pay for Legal Services in New York: A Breakdown of Attorney Fees

If you’re in need of legal services in New York, one of the first questions you may have is, “What can I expect to pay for an attorney?” The cost of legal services can vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including the type of case, the complexity of the legal issues involved, and the experience and reputation of the attorney you choose. In this article, we’ll break down the typical attorney fees you can expect to encounter in New York, from hourly rates to contingency fees and everything in between. Whether you’re facing a criminal charge, need help with a civil lawsuit, or are seeking legal advice for your business, understanding the cost of legal services can help you make informed decisions and plan for the future. So let’s dive in and explore what you can expect to pay for legal services in New York.

What is the legal fee standard?

Overal, attorneys have one rules that controls how much they can charge a client: the legal fee must not be “excessive.” Excessive is defined as after a review of the facts, a reasonable lawyer would be left with a definite and firm conviction that the fee is excessive.

Hourly Rates and Fees

Hourly billing is the most common type of fee arrangement used by attorneys. Under this arrangement, the attorney charges the client a fixed rate per hour for the time they spend working on the client’s case. The typical hourly rate for an attorney in New York can range anywhere from $200 to $1,000 or more, depending on the attorney’s experience, reputation, and the complexity of the legal issues involved in your case.

If an attorney charges $200 per hour and works on your case for 10 hours, you can expect to pay $2,000. However, keep in mind that some attorneys require a minimum number of hours to be billed, regardless of how much work they actually do on your case. This is known as a minimum fee, and it is generally used to cover the attorney’s overhead costs.

Hourly billing offers flexibility for both the attorney and the client. Clients can choose to pay for only the services they need and can budget their expenses accordingly. Attorneys, in turn, can adjust their fees based on the client’s budget or the complexity of the case.

However, hourly billing also has some drawbacks. For one thing, it can be difficult to predict the final cost of a case, as the amount of time required to complete a case can vary depending on unforeseen circumstances. Clients may also feel frustrated if they receive a large bill that they did not expect, even if the attorney worked diligently and efficiently on their case.

Ultimately, the choice of billing arrangement will depend on the needs and preferences of the client and the nature of the case. Hourly billing may be appropriate for some clients, while others may prefer a fixed fee or contingency fee arrangement. It is important for clients to discuss billing arrangements with their attorney and to have a clear understanding of the costs associated with their case before proceeding.

In conclusion, hourly billing is the most common type of fee arrangement used by attorneys. While it offers several advantages, it also has some drawbacks, including the potential for unpredictable costs. Alternative billing arrangements, such as fixed fees and contingency fees, can provide greater predictability and affordability for clients, but they may not be appropriate for all cases.

Contingency Fees



An attorney contingency fee agreement is a contract between a client and an attorney where the attorney agrees to represent the client in a legal matter and be compensated only if the client wins the case. This type of agreement is commonly used in personal injury cases, but it can also be used in other types of cases, such as employment disputes, commercial litigation, and consumer fraud cases.

Under a contingency fee agreement, the attorney’s fee is usually a percentage of the amount that the client recovers in the case. For example, if the client recovers $100,000 in a personal injury case, and the contingency fee agreement states that the attorney’s fee is 33%, the attorney would be entitled to receive $33,000 in fees. If the client does not recover any money, the attorney would not receive any fees under the contingency fee agreement.

Contingency fee agreements can be beneficial for clients who cannot afford to pay an attorney’s hourly rate or who do not want to take the risk of paying legal fees upfront for a case that may not be successful. It also allows clients to have access to legal representation and pursue a case that they may not have otherwise been able to pursue.

However, it is important for clients to understand the terms of the contingency fee agreement before signing it. The agreement should state what fees or costs that the client may be responsible for, such as court fees or expert witness fees. Additionally, the agreement should clearly outline the scope of the attorney’s representation and the responsibilities of both the client and the attorney.

Clients should also be aware that the percentage of the attorney’s fee may vary depending on the stage of the case. For example, if the case settles before trial, the percentage of the attorney’s fee may be lower than if the case goes to trial. This is because the attorney may have to spend more time and resources preparing for a trial, which increases the risk and cost of the case for the attorney.

Finally, clients should be aware that contingency fee agreements are not allowed in all types of cases or in all jurisdictions. For example, contingency fee agreements are generally not allowed in criminal cases or in cases involving child custody or visitation.

What is a typical contingency fee?

While personal injury attorneys typically charge 33% of the recover after deducting expenses, most other contingency fee types of cases can very greatly between law firms. The fee amount will typically be determined based on the amount of possible recovery, the possibility of recovery, and amount of work necessary to recover.  

Flat Fee Agreements

Fixed fee, also known as a flat fee, is an alternative attorney fee arrangement that involves charging clients a pre-determined amount for a specific legal service or project. This fee is agreed upon by the attorney and client before any work begins, and it remains constant regardless of the amount of time spent on the case.

Fixed fee arrangements are popular among clients who want to avoid unexpected legal costs and have greater predictability over their expenses. For example, a client seeking a simple will or a real estate contract review may prefer a fixed fee arrangement, as the scope of the work is clearly defined and the attorney’s fees can be estimated in advance.

Fixed fee arrangements can also benefit attorneys. They can streamline the billing process and reduce the amount of time spent on administrative tasks. Additionally, fixed fee arrangements provide an incentive for attorneys to work efficiently and effectively, as they must complete the work within the agreed-upon fee.

However, fixed fee arrangements can also have drawbacks. First, attorneys may also be hesitant to take on cases with a fixed fee arrangement if they believe the work required may exceed the agreed-upon fee. To mitigate these concerns, attorneys may include provisions in the fixed fee agreement that allow for additional fees to be charged in certain circumstances. For example, a real estate contract review may include a provision that allows for additional fees to be charged if negotiations with the other party become complex or time-consuming. Second, you may overpay the attorney for the work compared to if they were to take it on on an hourly basis.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is the process of preparing for the transfer of a person’s assets and property after their death. This can include drafting a will, creating a trust, and designating beneficiaries for life insurance policies and retirement accounts. Attorneys who specialize in estate planning often charge flat fees for their services, which can range from a few hundred dollars for a simple will to several thousand dollars for a comprehensive estate plan. More complex matters are typically billed hourly. 


Immigration law is a complex area of the law that involves a wide range of legal issues, including visas, green cards, and citizenship. Attorneys who practice immigration law may charge flat fees for certain services, such as preparing and filing a visa application or representing a client in immigration court.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property law involves the protection of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Attorneys who specialize in intellectual property law may charge flat fees for services such as filing a trademark application or drafting a licensing agreement.

Business Formation

Starting a new business involves a variety of legal issues, including choosing the right business structure, registering with the state, and drafting contracts and agreements. Attorneys who specialize in business formation may charge flat fees for services such as forming a corporation or filing for a business license.


Overall, fixed fee arrangements can be a useful tool for both clients and attorneys. They offer predictability and transparency in billing, as well as an incentive for attorneys to work efficiently and effectively.

What is a Retainer?

A retainer is a fee paid upfront to an attorney to secure their services for a specific period of time. The retainer is typically based on the attorney’s hourly rate, and it is used to cover future costs and expenses related to the case.

For example, if an attorney charges $300 per hour and requires a retainer of $3,000, the client can expect to receive up to 10 hours of legal services before the retainer is exhausted. Once the retainer is used up, the client may be required to replenish it in order to continue receiving legal services. In New York a retainer is typically refundable.

Additional Costs and Expenses to Consider

In addition to attorney fees, there are several other costs and expenses that may be associated with your legal matter. These can include court fees, expert witness fees, and travel expenses. It’s important to discuss these costs with your attorney upfront so that you can plan accordingly


The cost of legal services in New York can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. By understanding the different types of fees that attorneys charge, as well as the additional costs and expenses associated with legal matters, you can make informed decisions and plan for the future. Whether you’re facing a criminal charge, need help with a civil lawsuit, or are seeking legal advice for your business, working with an experienced attorney can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

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Gregory A. Byrnes

Gregory A. Byrnes
152 Madison Avenue
14th Floor
New York, NY 10016
(646) 448-5279


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