The Cost of Hiring An Attorney

Attorneys rarely disclose the rates they charge, whether hourly rates or flat rates, prior to meeting the prospective client. In fact, I am not aware of any lawyer in Chicago, wider-Cook County or DuPage County that posts attorney fees.

There are a number of reasons for this reluctance. One is that each case is different, and a lawyer wants to have the freedom to charge more or less depending on the complexity of the case, the interest of the case or even the client’s ability to pay (sliding scale type billing). Another reason is that some people correlate the quality of a lawyer with the rates charged, where the main reasons for rates are usually: industry specific (security lawyers charge more than bankruptcy lawyers); geography (urban is more expensive than rural); name recognition (which can be due to quality, but often is more a factor of advertising and media savvy): and ideology (primary focus on revenue versus income being moderated by wanting to help as many people as possible; or just thinking that charging less per hour will make the  lawyer seem less experienced). Yet another reason, and the main reason that I previously strayed away from posting my rates is that I am always concerned with the reader misunderstanding, and as a result, me losing a prospective client and the prospective client not being represented or being represented less well than she or he could be.




The potential misunderstanding can go like this: I cannot afford this. Do not misunderstand: “this”, the amount stated, is a guide. It is not set in stone. For example, a flat fee may be split up into smaller payments if conditions warrant; an hourly rate may be discounted in certain circumstances; a retainer for an hourly case can be revised depending on the complexity of the case. You can always ask, and at most, I can tell you “no”. I will treat all respectful requests with respect and integrity.

The reason I decided to disclose the way I bill is to provide full disclosure, to start of the relationship between us on an honest footing. Frankly, like everyone else, I like to have an idea of the price of what I am looking to purchase before getting into the store myself.

Hourly or Actual Time Rate

An attorney sells only one thing: time. Each minute spent on one case is not spent on another. The hourly rate is called that because the rate is set “per hour”. However, that can be charged in many ways.

Some attorneys charge minimum quarter hour or more, meaning if the lawyer spends 5 minutes she will charge you for 15 minutes. I charge as close to actual time as practicable: in 6 minute increments. If I spent 5 minutes, you get charged for 6, and if I spent 22 minutes, you get charged for 24 minutes.

My typical hourly rate: $300 per hour out-of-court.

Some typical retainers:

  • Divorce (no children): $1,300 to $3,600

  • Divorce (with minor children): $2,000 to $5,000

  • Child support or maintenance or property payment or debt payments or visitation enforcement: $1,500 to $3,000 (will attempt to recover fees from opposing party)

  • Mediation: Pay-as-you-go to $1,500

  • Prenuptial Agreement: $900 to $2,000

  • Appeal: $4,000 or more

  • Consultation or document review: pay-as-you go.

Flat Fees

Cases that are more predictable in terms of how much time a lawyer will need to put in are charged on a flat fee basis. A flat fee can be a one time fee, charged at the beginning of the case. A flat fee can also be charged based on stages, for instance portion at the start, another portion at filing, and a final portion upon completion.

Most immigration law cases are flat fee. Again, as I outline some of my flat fees, below, please keep in mind that these are not etched in stone, and I might allow exceptions for spreading out payments more, etc.

Some typical flat fees (fees below are minimums that can vary depending on circumstances):

Family Law:

QDRO for 401(K) or QILDRO: $1,400


QDRO for pension plan: $1,600


Estate Planning:

Will, Power of Attorney Medical and Living Will: $1,000

Immigration Law:

DACA: $1,000

Adjustment of Status for Immediate Relative: $2,000

H-1B: $1,500 at start; $1,500 at filing

L-1A/B: $1,500 at start; $1,500 at filing

K-1: $1,400 at start; $800 at letter from Consulate; $1,350 at start of adjustment filing

I-751: $1,500-$2,300

N-400: $1,200

Immigrant Visa: $1,550 at start; $1,850 at NVC letter

Please Contact Me for a Free Intake

First and foremost, contact me for a free, no obligations intake. You can e-mail or call. I offer these free intakes so that I can determine if the issue you have is one that I can help you with. Even if I cannot help you because the case is in an area outside of my expertise, I can refer you to an honest and solid attorney that can. Please call, e-mail or use the contact form at the bottom to contact me. Regardless of whether you live or work in Chicago, elsewhere in Cook County or in DuPage County, we can meet in person. I can advise on U.S. immigration law, wherever you are in the world.