How to Negotiate a Contingency Fee

Many people find themselves turning to a contingency fee agreement for various reasons. Some are looking for a lawyer that won’t cost them an arm and a leg, while others may be looking for someone who will work with what they can afford.

But from the outset of the legal process, it’s important to be clear about what you want and don’t want. Contingency agreements are living documents subject to change should unforeseen circumstances arise. Here are some ways to negotiate a contingency fee agreement.

I. Manage Your Expectations Early on in the Process

Many people are surprised when they learn they must pay a contingency fee. Contrary to what you may feel is expected, being upfront with the lawyer you intend to hire and yourself is essential in determining the best compensation method for services rendered.

2. Know What You Want to Achieve

A clear understanding of what you want is an essential first step in the contingency process. If you’re looking to sue one of your neighbors over a fence or noise coming from their property, you have to be upfront that your case may not be eligible for a contingency fee.

However, if your case falls under personal injury or car accident, then it’s likely that the lawyer will consider working on a contingency agreement. A contingency fee dispute can arise, and it’s best to bring this up early before you move forward with any agreements.

3. Understand the Lawyer’s Position in the Contingency Agreement

Contingency fees are not a guarantee that you will win your case, and it’s important to know this from the outset. If the case is lost, the lawyer won’t be getting anything and that’s why some will not work on a contingency basis. It’s important to have an honest conversation with any lawyer you hire about what they can or cannot do in your matter and how they will be compensated in the event of a loss.

4. Know Your Rights in a Contingency Agreement

If you believe that your attorney is providing substandard service or charging too much money for their services, you have rights under their contingency agreement. These include the ability to discuss your issue with the attorney, consider hiring another lawyer, and ask the court to terminate their services.

5. Take Time to Discuss Your Case

Just because you have a contingency agreement does not mean there aren’t any restrictions on your case. And this is especially true when it comes to representation by an attorney. Contingency agreements often stipulate that the lawyer must discuss the details of their case with you before they accept to take your case.

6. Know the Limitations on Your Contingency Agreement

For lawyers offering their services on a contingency basis, there are some limitations on what they can and cannot do for you. As long as the lawyer has to work hard to win your case, there’s nothing illegal about charging a contingency fee.

Lawyers are not allowed to give legal advice or act as if they’re a second attorney in your case, but they can offer suggestions based on the evidence in your case. They must be honest and upfront with you at all times and cannot refer you to other disciplines unless it’s something that will help them win your case.

7. Know What Your Contingency Agreement is For

Contingency agreements have a specific purpose. It’s important to be clear about the goal of your agreement. If the contract states that you can hire a lawyer for particular claims and then pay them for their services, you must know what those claims are and what success will look like. If you don’t want or need a contingency fee in your case, it’s best to keep your expectations realistic.

8. Seek Out a Lawyer Who Has Experience in Your Area of Interest

It’s important to ensure that your lawyer has experience in your area of interest. If this is not clear from their online profile or resume, ask them about it before hiring them. There’s nothing wrong with calling them and asking about their experience with similar cases. Someone needing a lawyer who has experience with personal injury law probably shouldn’t hire someone who is solely a corporate attorney.


If you’re looking to get your case on the right foot, it’s best to devise a contingency agreement that is fair to both sides. While contingency fees do not guarantee that you will win your case, they can make all the difference in winning or losing. A Miami personal injury lawyer can help you with your contingency contract and be there for your case.