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Do Divorce Lawyers Work On Contingency?

Do Divorce Lawyers Work On Contingency

The quick answer is no. Divorce lawyers in Utah cannot accept a divorce case on a contingency fee because it is unethical to do so under the Utah Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys. The type of law that attorneys practice determines how they get to be paid. There are several types of lawyers in the legal field. For example, family lawyers, criminal lawyers, corporate lawyers, bankruptcy lawyers, and tax lawyers.

Lawyers perform diverse roles depending on the nature of their job. As such, they should be duly compensated. There are several methods used to pay lawyers. I will briefly elaborate on each method below.

Payment methods for lawyers

Flat fees

As the name suggests, a flat fee means that the lawyer is paid a set amount of money for a specific service. It is also common to find lawyers charging a flat fee for simple and straightforward cases. Simple services like writing a will are charged a flat fee.

Retainer Fee

In law, this refers to an amount of fee paid upfront by an individual to secure an attorney’s services. This percentage is used to guarantee the commitment of that lawyer. The retainer fee is used by lawyers as a downpayment on any expense incurred when rendering the service.

Hourly rates

Here, a lawyer charges a specific amount per hour. The final amount paid to the lawyer, therefore, depends on the total number of hours they worked on your case. Hourly rates depend on the lawyer’s expertise. You are advised to always seek a rough estimate of how many hours the lawyer will put in. This will help you to budget and prepare in advance.

Contingency fee

This refers to a payment plan where the lawyer collects the fee when a client wins a case. The lawyer is then paid a percentage of the awarded amount, usually a third of the client’s awarded amount. I will delve deeper into this type of payment below so that you can learn the circumstances under which contingency fee is appropriate and not appropriate.

Contingency fee, its pros and cons

As we have seen from its definition, a lawyer can only be paid if the client wins.


  • A client does not need to pay any upfront fee to the lawyer.
  • The lawyer strives for a win-win situation to ensure that the client wins the case and they get to be paid.


  • Biases on the cases. Some lawyers will become too selective on the type of cases to pick.
  • Another downside of a contingency fee is that it may end up being too costly as opposed to if the lawyer was paid an hourly or flat fee.

In the legal field, the contingency fee is not used in just any case. Let us look at the different types of cases that a contingency fee can be used.

Where is the contingency fee used?

Contingency fee tends to work well in cases which involve money being claimed. Such cases include:

Personal injury cases

These are also known as tort claims. These claims are made by a plaintiff when someone else’s mistake or negligence causes harm or endangers the life of the plaintiff. Common examples of personal injuries are as follows.

Slips or falls

Property owners or any person renting out a premise is required by law to ensure that such premises do not pose any risk to tenants.

Occasionally, a person may trip and fall and sustain serious injuries. According to the law, if you sustain such injuries, the responsible party is liable for the resulting liabilities.

A lawyer will come in handy to help you establish clarity on the liability incurred so that you are able to present relevant evidence in the court.

Medical malpractices

We live in a world where values are disintegrating fast. Honesty and genuineness are fading fast. In the medical world, this has been seen in cases where patients are treated by quacks who pretend to be certified experts. Some of these practitioners will even present fake documents to unsuspecting clients. Innocent people will end up enriching them without getting any beneficial help in the long run.

On the other hand, there are real genuine medical practitioners who sometimes end up giving misdiagnosis to patients. Other cases involve medical negligence. For instance, there are cases where it takes too long for a patient to get admitted, or surgery tools like scissors or cotton wool is left inside a patient after surgery.

Another malpractice is overdosing of patients. Such medical malpractices can lead to fatalities, permanent organ damage or paralysis. In such cases, the patient or the patient’s family has a right to claim some compensation.

The patient should be able to prove that the physician was negligent and present any supporting documents or physical evidence.

Car accident claims

This is a common type of claim. Accidents can happen due to various reasons. A driver may be under the influence of an alcoholic drink or substance abuse, someone is negligent on the traffic rules or bad weather conditions which cause poor visibility. 

Each state in the United States has its own laws regarding accident claims. Some have the “no-fault” system.

In Utah, for example, this system is in place. Here, the injured individual sorely relies on their insurance coverage plan after the accident. No one is put to blame in a car accident.

Exceptions are made for very serious injuries if the injured person can verify how serious the injuries were. Negotiations are then made to establish whether the injuries meet the required threshold.

Pet bites

Injuries sustained from pet bites such as dogs can be taken to court and the plaintiff can demand to be compensated.

In Utah, there are certain rules regarding injuries from dog bites. These cases have a time limit, usually four years. If a plaintiff does not present such a case within four years from when the attack occurred, the court will not consider it.

Also, homeowners are responsible for any injury caused by their pets. They are therefore required to compensate the injured individual when an attack occurs. Failure to do so can earn them a fine.

Compensation claims by workers

Any work environment can pose a risk to the employees. Probably you have heard of cases where an employee got injured while on duty, others died due to mechanical injuries or some developed an illness from the workplace.

These cases occur all the time. Human beings have basic rights. For those in employment, there are certain stipulated laws which protect employees. Injuries sustained at the workplace have to be compensated for.

In Utah, each and every employer has to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their organization. This is supposed to cover any individual who gets injured at work.

Such insurance caters for any medical bills, physical impairment or wages lost while the worker is recuperating.

Some companies may fail to compensate their workers. This is where the employee can use an attorney specializing in workers compensation claims. These types of lawyers work on a contingency fee.

The contingency fee is common in the above example. In law, there are cases which do not use contingency. It is considered unethical to do so. I will focus on those types in the next section below.

Cases which do not allow contingency fee

Immigration cases

Sometimes, money is not really a factor when it comes to solving legal cases. For instance, immigration cases can solely be based on establishing immigration rights for the plaintiff, such as seeking a visa or prevention from deportation.

The outcome of such a case is not dependent on some monetary award which the lawyer will claim. Thus such cases do not permit any contingency fee.

Criminal cases

This type of case is not based on monetary compensation. It is also unethical if a lawyer was to ask for a contingency fee in a criminal case.

In this type of case, the primary role of the lawyer is to try and defend the accused of whichever crime they have committed. The fact that there is an accusation overrides any compensation, except in cases where someone is wrongfully accused and there is evidence to prove their innocence.

Lawyers dealing with criminal cases normally require a retainer fee.

Bankruptcy cases

These cases do not also use a contingency fee simply because there is no monetary award given to the client. In most bankruptcy cases, only a statutory fee is paid. This fee can be set by a statutory body or the court can approve the amount a client sets.

Drafting of legal documents

Lawyers may be hired to oversee the drafting and signing of various documents such as contracts, will or trust. In such cases, the client and lawyer agree on an hourly rate or a flat fee.

Divorce, alimony and child custody cases

Divorce involves the dissolution of a marriage union that had been formalized. The number of divorce cases has shot up over the past several years. This has created very lucrative opportunities for family lawyers.

Attorneys who practice family law are able to represent clients in various family matters such as divorce, adoption, child custody or spousal support.

Choosing a divorce lawyer is a crucial step in your journey to divorce. In divorce cases, there is no requirement that each spouse must have a lawyer, but if one of you hires one, it is advisable for the one spouse to do so too. The attorney’s role is mainly centered on advocating for a favorable outcome.

Divorce lawyers are supposed to stand out in their work. As a client, look for an attorney who exhibits professionalism, has a reputable history, honest, is highly skilled in family matters and whose educational background can be verified. This is because hiring such services is costly, thus you should get value for the money you pay.

Divorce cases usually involve the division of properties, assets, liabilities or debts. They also focus on child custody and spousal support.

Most of the divorce cases are settled outside the court. The hired attorneys guide the couple on how to reach a settlement on the pertinent issues. Some cases are settled by a divorce mediator who is neutral and does not advocate for either party. Couples who fail to agree normally end up in the courtroom where their case is determined by a judge.

How are Divorce Lawyers paid?

Divorce attorneys normally charge the hourly rates. They will charge you for every hour spent working on your case. This hourly rate is flexible depending on the kind of lawyer you have hired. Each will have their own rate, due to the expertise they have or the complexity of your divorce case.

Other divorce lawyers will ask for a retainer fee and you may have to sign an agreement. Clients who lack the upfront money to pay the retainer fee may request for other payment options and the lawyer should be flexible enough to agree.

Each state in the United States has its own threshold for the rates that lawyers can charge. As an attorney, you have to be upfront with your clients and negotiate with them upon your first consultation meeting. Explain to your clients which expenses you are likely to incur during the case period. Let them know about any invoices you will be mailing them. This will help to ease the payment process. As a lawyer, your clients will also be able to trust your competence.

Even in the hourly rates, divorce lawyers are quite costly. This is mainly due to the nature of their work. A divorce lawyer’s day can entail doing tasks such as conducting research, obtaining financial statements for the client, printing and copy work, obtaining evidence as well as drafting of legal documents.

On the lower end, divorce lawyers can charge an hourly rate of $290. In Utah, the average hourly rate is approximately $350. This can be considered reasonable due to their job description. Some are as high as $450.

As I conclude, we have been able to determine that divorce lawyers do not work on a contingency fee. This is because divorce cases are not based on financial rewards. They are not about who wins or loses but rather about determining how the family’s properties, assets, and liabilities will be divided. They also determine the custodial rights of children as well as alimony. Divorce lawyers usually charge hourly rates or retainer fee.

Divorce Attorney Free Consultation

When you need legal help with a divorce in Utah, please call Ascent Law at (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States

Telephone: (801) 676-5506