FAQ: How Does Hiring a “No Win, No Fee” Attorney Work?

Hiring No Win No Fee Attorney

Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: March 10, 2024 11:37am CDT

Hiring No Win No Fee Attorney

Hiring an attorney to represent you is far from the simplest thing you will ever do.

The lawyer market has become quite saturated over the years, and with so many attorneys advertising for you to choose them, it can be challenging to decide who to hire or how to retain their legal services.

The reality is that there are many different types of lawyers who specialize in various claims.

Although there are main categories of law that attorneys can practice, it can get overwhelming fast when you are trying to read the many different types of cases and other info on a law firm’s website.

Unfortunately, this information overload has worsened in many ways because of the internet. It all comes down to the attorneys wanting you to hire their law firm over another.

That said, finding an attorney capable of representing you for a specific legal issue is not an impossible task and is not what stops most people from hiring an attorney.

However, the real trouble starts when looking for an attorney whose costs will not unnecessarily leave you at a financial disadvantage over the long run.

There is more than one way attorneys charge for their services, but some are better than others, depending on your case type.

Most attorneys nowadays bill their clients hourly, which means they expect to get paid for their work on a regular basis. They calculate how much they charge based on having a set hourly rate and multiplying that by how many hours they spent working for you.

Sometimes, and most often, if you are a new client, the law firm may want you to pay a retainer, which is a legal fee to be paid upfront, even though they will bill you hourly.

While the initial consultation may be free, it is more of an introduction and is not the place to get legal advice.

So an hourly rate fee model can immediately lead to incurring high costs. Commercial litigation attorneys and law firms typically rely on hourly billing to charge their legal fees.

“No Win, No Fee” and Personal Injury Lawyers [Video]

In addition to a single flat fee or hourly billing, lawyers use another very common and popular fee type. Notably, personal injury attorneys commonly refer to it as a “no win, no fee.”

The most significant difference between the “no win, no pay” attorney fee, and other lawyer fee models is that you don’t have to pay them until your case is successfully resolved.

More lawyers are using the “no win, no fee” to charge for their practice than ever, although it is still specific to only certain areas of law.

So, it can be unclear whether you can retain a “no win, no pay” attorney to represent you for your case and how to make sure you hire the best lawyer for you.

The good news is you are already reading the right resource about how the “no win, no pay” fee works and what you can do to search for the best “no win, no fee” lawyer to help you with your claim.

Please note as a disclaimer: that this article is for consumer education and awareness purposes. We chose to use the terms “no win, no pay” and “no win, no fee,” which some of America’s top law firms use as near standalone phrases in their advertising.

However, it is essential to note from a legal definition perspective the statement is not entirely accurate, as law firms charge their fees when the case settles out of court. Settling a personal injury claim is not the same as winning.

If the law firms separated settled from the word winning, only a small fraction of the claimants would have to pay, as most cases never make it to court where a claim can be won or lost.

However, as we say in this article, potential clients are provided with initial consultations and other opportunities to clarify any confusion.

Comprehending these details is especially important before a personal injury client signs a contingency fee agreement with the attorney they select to hire.

"No Win, No Fee" Lawyer holding settlement money

There are entirely avoidable ways a client could be in breach of the contract, which means there are lawful and just ways they could owe the law firm even if they lost their injury claim.

Breach of contract almost never comes into play for clients who continue to retain their attorneys until the end of the case. Claimants who are honest with and listen to their attorney’s advice should not have to be concerned about breaching the terms of their “no win, no fee” agreements.

What Is a “No Win-No Fee” Attorney?

To answer what a “no win, no fee” attorney is, you should first ask how “no win, no fee” lawyers differ from traditional lawyers. The answer is more straightforward than you might imagine since a “no win, no fee” is a regular attorney.

The only significant difference is how they charge their attorney’s fee for representing their clients.

“No Fee Lawyers” Charge Contingency Fees

“No win, no fee” lawyers operate on a contingency fee basis, which means they do not require any payment until the case is resolved by their client recovering money for their losses. Even more importantly, a no fee lawyer will not accept any payment unless your case is settled or won in your financial favor.

This practice enables the clients to retain an attorney’s services without financially burdening themselves before the legal action is resolved. Many state Bar Associations have specific guidelines to instruct attorneys on how to charge the different fee types and how they are allowed to advertise them.

A No Win No Fee Attorney

“No win, no fee” attorneys are usually synonymous with and the most important during car accident and personal injury claims where the financial losses are highest. The economic losses from suffering a personal injury can leave people struggling before they even consider consulting with an attorney about their claim.

So, “no win, no fee” attorneys become far more appealing to those looking for the financial freedom of not having to pay for their lawyer during a pending injury claim.

Without this deferred lawyer fee, access to financial justice for personal injury claims would not be realistic for most people who suffered an injury or tort caused by another person or company.

Personal injury cases often last for years and take hundreds of hours to complete, making hourly billing an impractical choice for people with injury and accident claims.

No Win No Fee Attorneys Get Paid After Successful Case

In addition to not having to pay the “no win, no pay” lawyer until after your case resolves and you get money, the contract to hire the attorney is a contingency fee agreement.

Win or Settle Claim

That means if you win or settle the case for money, the attorney will get paid their fee from your settlement check that will be sent to your law firm by the defendant or the defendant’s insurance company to compensate you.

Conversely, nothing is owed if you lose the case, but you are still given the needed representation of your personal injury attorney. So your attorney and law firm are giving you two significant benefits by having a contingency fee arrangement with you:

Benefits of Contingency Fee Lawyers:

  1. You, the plaintiff, do not have to pay for any of your case expenses or attorney’s fee while your civil lawsuit is pending.
  2. It is risk-free for you, the law firm client. If you lose or do not recover any money on the claim, all the time and money your lawyer spent on the case is not your responsibility to pay.

Corpus Christi-based car accident lawyer Minesh J. Patel shares his personal experience and insight about “No win, no fee” attorneys by saying,

No win, no fee attorneys or lawyers who work for their clients on a contingency fee, are commonplace when looking for a personal injury attorney. To make it simple, if they are unable to recover compensation for you, you owe nothing to the attorney for their work.

An Attorney Consultation

“No win, no fee” payment structures are becoming more common among American law firms to secure clients without any out-of-pocket expense and to give them peace of mind.

Unfortunately, not every lawyer can structure how they get paid by using the contingency fee model.

Plenty of law firms still require payment up front and throughout the case. Knowing there is this option inevitably makes people want to know how they can find a “no win, no pay” lawyer to represent them.

The good news is that there are things that you can do to determine which attorneys use the “no win, no fee lawyers” payment structure. We will discuss those helpful strategies and hints below.

How To Hire a “No Win, No Fee Lawyer”?

When considering a “no win, no pay” attorney, it can be challenging to get a sense of their professionalism, tactics, or payment structure off their website, billboard, or TV commercial.

There is so much competition among attorneys nowadays that some law firm slogans and claims seem to be overlooked as being problematic, even though they may not be entirely accurate in a legal definition sense.

No win-no fee is an example of a slightly inaccurate statement, which is now commonplace among personal injury, workers’ compensation, wrongful termination, and employment lawyers.

Settling a case is not considered winning. However, no fee lawyers consider it to be in their advertisements, as they expect to get paid when they settle a case.

Attend Legal Consultation With a Lawyer

So the ability to cut through the advertisement noise and get straight to the most factual information about retaining counsel will come from direct interaction with the law firms. It will better give you a sense of their personalities and techniques.

You can also ask more specific questions and provide more precise information in person than you could over an online form or by sending an e-mail.

Fortunately, a simple process can be used when hiring an attorney, allowing you to speak face-to-face with a lawyer by having what is referred to as an initial consultation (Or over a video chat platform like Zoom, Google Meet, or Webex).

Initial consultations are a standard part of retaining legal help that allows you to meet with your prospective attorney and convey the nature of your case.

Hiring an attorney is an important decision that will impact your future, so you should always request the first meeting to help give you insight and identify the attorney best suited to help you.

The initial consultation is almost always free, especially since the discussions can benefit more than just you, the client.

These free legal consultations take place before there is an attorney-client relationship, allowing for the meeting to be an opportunity for lawyers to get to know and decide whether they are willing to get hired by the potential client.

If an attorney can tell you that they will have trouble getting along with you, it’s in your best interest they not let you retain them.

Searching For Attorneys Online

Like with any potential business arrangement, If you meet with the attorney and you find they do not meet your expectations, you can contact another lawyer or law firm to see if they will be a better fit.

On the other hand, the free legal consultation might yield the results you were hoping for and cement your desire to retain a specific legal counselor.

While consultations can be immensely beneficial for narrowing down which attorney you plan to hire, they are also time-consuming.

So unless you have a longstanding prior relationship with an attorney or law firm, you will likely be looking for one of the better and more reputable names near you. However, finding the names of the lawyers that are the best for your case type names can be challenging and confusing.

Like with any professional service, some lawyers are better than others. That’s why a bit of research can go a long way in helping you put together a list of top lawyers to set up consultations.

Get Lawyer Referral From Family or Friend

Often the best place to find out who is the best professional to hire is by asking people you trust do they have someone they recommend they contact for the job you need doing. Asking for a referral is no different when it comes to “no win, no fee” attorneys.

When you have a personal injury claim, asking friends and family if they know a lawyer they recommend or have hired themselves in the past can make it much easier to locate an attorney who is more likely to be a good option for you.

However, having an initial legal consultation with the attorney is still crucial to see if they are the attorney for you.

Just because they were an excellent fit for your relative does not automatically mean they will be for you, as sometimes it boils down to more than the attorney’s experience.

If you both had trouble getting along and it is not due to your suffering a TBI or having a bad day, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney whose personality meshes better with yours.

Still, this is said with caution, as you do not have to like your attorney for them to do an excellent job on your behalf. Regardless, having someone you trust who can refer you to a lawyer they have used before can make a big difference in your legal representation search.

Start Your Search Online To Hire a Lawyer

One of modern society’s best advantages is the internet’s ability to search for services and providers. This can be extended to virtually any professional service you seek, including hiring a lawyer to represent you.

The online research enables you to search for the highest-reviewed law firms in your area, and the info you find on the practice area pages of the attorney websites can help you choose the firm with the best chance of seeing your case through to the end.

That is not to say you should expect to walk away with a single name that will be everything you are looking for in a counselor.

Instead, you can use the information gathered online to create a list of some of the best attorneys with the best online reputations.

Ways To Research the Online Reputation of Law Firms:

  • Find attorneys and law firms on review sites. Having some negative reviews can be understandable, especially if the law firm has dozens or more reviews. (There may be restrictions about review websites depending on each state’s Bar guidelines.)
    What should be a red flag is when a lawyer (both civil and criminal) only has negative 1-star reviews, and each one describes a legitimate reason why the reviewer is dissatisfied with how the lawyer handled their case. However, sometimes, a negative online attorney review can include irrelevant info. For instance, the past client justifies the bad review because they are annoyed that the law firm is not near the area of town in which they live. Besides being unfair, it’s not helpful.
  • Search the state bar lawyer listings for the attorney if there is one. The name of the lawyer should be on the list. If they are not, there could be more than one explanation of why that is, all of which should not necessarily be a reason to make you extra cautious.
    The more important part is to see whether the lawyer is in good standing. This feature may not be available on all state bar websites, but it is available on some.

Once you have your list of potential lawyers to hire, you can use the information to begin scheduling consultation appointments to help you understand the attorney’s services.

However, you can get a preliminary understanding of the attorney’s specialties and payment structure from their websites and reviews from their previous clients.

That can help take some of the initial guesswork out of hiring an attorney, but mostly the goal is to use this information to determine which attorneys with whom you want to set up consultations.

Online research, while helpful, is only a part of the preliminary search for an attorney. Hiring an attorney that uses the payment model you are looking for is simple once you have this information.

As mentioned earlier, you need to finish the consultation phase and find yourself a new attorney ready to provide the legal assistance you need.

What Questions To Ask No Fee Lawyers?

Having a consultation with an attorney and knowing how to use the meeting to its fullest are two different things. When you attend your consultation with a potential attorney, you must ask several essential questions to ensure they are the right lawyer to represent you properly and to give you legal advice about your case.

These can include questions about how their payment structure works, but others are related to how they represent you when the negotiations for your claim begin. Knowing which questions you need to ask before your first consultation can help set the trend for the success or failure of your legal journey.

It’s not all or nothing, success or failure wise, as hiring the wrong “no win, no fee” attorney can cost you money in the long run if you are forced to under-settle your case. The most important of these questions to ask the lawyer include the following:

1. Do you specialize in cases like mine?

This question can help you determine whether the legal team you are considering will be able to manage your case. Suppose they specialize in divorce, but you are looking to hire a personal injury attorney for a car accident case.

In that case, the divorce lawyer may not be your best chance, for they do not specialize in accident cases.

Divorce and family law attorneys are more likely to lack experience in personal injury cases, which are very different. This does not mean they are not highly capable and experienced legal professionals.

So, this concept continues to suggest that a lawyer with a long history of winning personal injury cases, which is experience, will make a better fit for your case.

2. How long have you been in law practice?

Another critical question is determining how long your prospective attorney or law firm has been in business. If the firm has only been operational for a couple of months, but the attorney has years of experience, they are likely still a viable choice to represent you.

If the attorney has only recently earned their license to practice, they might not have gained the experience necessary to represent you effectively. Some skills can only be learned from experience.

Asking Attorney Questions

3. How strong is my case?

An attorney will have a greater understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your legal claim. Asking if you have a strong case after providing the details is not always necessary since most attorneys will address this question before you mention it.

If they do not, make sure to ask so you have a realistic understanding of your chances of winning or settling.

Plus, how much money the personal injury lawyer thinks you can get from your claim. Depending on the case type and the amount of info you bring, too definitive of a number could mean you should be wary.

Realistically, a lawyer should not be able to say exactly how much your case is worth during your first meeting, especially if you do not know the amount you have spent on medical treatment and any info on the insurance policy.

In this instance, you will want to follow up with added questions asking how they determined that amount. It’s your right to ask, and you protect yourself by doing so.

4. How often do your cases go to court?

Hiring an attorney for personal injury claims means your case will most likely be settled between your lawyer and an insurance adjuster or have to go to court. In most cases, “settling” out of court is preferable since it is faster, less expensive, and leaves less up to chance.

If your prospective attorney has a high rate of court hearings on personal injury claims or tells you they take all their cases to trial, so they never settle with insurance companies, you should consider consulting with someone else and then comparing notes.

5. Do you litigate your cases or refer them out?

As said mentioned above, most personal injury cases settle out of court. However, sometimes the circumstances will require an attorney to take your case to trial to get the compensation you deserve.

With that being said, not all law firms litigate claims in court and have an unofficial policy to refer the cases out to law firms who do.

If the law firm informs you there is a high chance your case will need to go to court, but they refer all cases that need to be referred out to other law firms to be litigated in that instance, you may want to consider looking into another law firm.

If the law firm is being transparent about that and telling you upfront, they are telling you that because they would want to know if they were in the same situation.

This is standard with personal injury law firms, which use the “no win, no fee” lawyer payment model.

So it won’t cost you more if they refer it out, but it can be a hassle and potentially slow down your case. Typically the two law firms will split the attorney fee, so you don’t have to worry about paying a higher percentage.

Also, if a law firm is good at settling cases for top dollar and rarely has to go to court, that is a positive.

Litigating in court does not automatically equate to being a better attorney when “no win, no pay” attorneys are concerned. This is especially concerning the cost of your lawyer since the attorney fee percentage is typically less if they settle your case out of court, meaning more settlement money for you.

6. How will I pay my attorney?

Knowing how your attorney expects payment will give you insight into whether your attorney is a “no win, no fee” lawyer or subscribes to a traditional payment structure. This information is critical if you need an attorney to defer payment until the case settles.

These questions are essential to securing an attorney that can be relied on for your specific case. Unfortunately, the attorney could answer every question perfectly and still disappoint you in this area. However, it comes more down to your case type than it does to your lawyer’s fee preferences.

No Fees (or Costs) Unless We Win Attorneys

That said, even no-fee lawyers are paid their contingency fee before you get your settlement check after the end of your case. Besides pro bono lawyers, attorneys cost money to hire and to have them work on your behalf, no matter their payment structure.

7. Can I get medical treatment from only medical providers approved by your no-fee law firm?

Some “no win, no fee” lawyers require their clients to get treatment from certain medical providers approved by the law firm. This can limit the quality of the medical treatment you receive during a personal injury, and if you choose to get treatment elsewhere, there can be repercussions.

For instance, you need to see a chiropractor or physical therapist for your car accident injury, but instead of going to the approved treatment providers for the law firm, you choose to visit a top-rated chiropractor in your area.

In this example, the “no win, no pay” attorneys may decide to drop your case, which means they basically are firing you as a client, and you can’t stay the law firm’s client even if you wanted to.

Although not the most typical, this is something you will want to ask about ahead of time to save yourself from unneeded mental anguish in the future as your injury claim and treatment progress.

Are There Still Costs With No Win, No Fee Attorneys?

Yes, no win, no fee lawyers deduct more than the cost of their contingency fee from your settlement check. Attorneys have expenses that arise while they represent you, even in the most simple of personal injury claims.

These costs can vary depending on the case’s complexity and the firm’s size. You will have to repay your attorney for the fees and expenses that arise during your lawsuit using the money you recover from your claim.

Attorney Expenses

The Most Common Legal Expenses Your No Fee Attorney Will Have:

  • Court and Filing Fees: Whenever your attorney files a claim in the court system or requests a copy of official records(records retrieval), they have to pay a filing fee for those documents.
    The cost of these records varies by institution and file size. Larger files cost more than smaller ones but could easily set you back around $100.00. The filing fee for the claim will also range between $100.00 and $400.00, but this varies by state.
  • Discovery Costs: During any legal proceeding, there is a discovery process in which depositions are conducted to gather information from pertinent individuals.
    Depending on the circumstances leading to your claim, your attorney might require multiple depositions to collect the necessary information for your claim. Depositions usually charge an hourly fee, with an 8-hour deposition costing around $1,000.00 in some states.

Unlike those often associated with lawyers, these costs are not for profit but necessary business costs for attorneys.

Closing Statements on Contingency Fee Lawyers

“No win, no fee” attorneys are easily the most preferred legal representation for the average citizen.

While not every lawyer is willing to or can offer to be hired on contingency from a practical perspective, many do, especially personal injury and labor law attorneys, and that can make the difference between filing a claim and not.

One additional benefit that can come your way when you hire a “no win, no pay” lawyer is a specific financial option during your claim.

That financial product is known as pre-settlement funding, which is a type of non-recourse cash advance that can be made to plaintiffs.

Even with your legal expenses being on hold because you hired your attorney on a contingency fee basis, other costs like medical supplies and utility bills can quickly compound with the rising costs of daily living.

Hiring an Attorney

We at Express Legal Funding are a Plano, Texas, pre-settlement funding company that has been offering our services for more than seven years.

How the lawsuit funding we provide works is that we purchase a portion of the potential proceeds of your claim. So in exchange for the funded money we can advance to you, we receive ownership rights to a part of your potential case proceeds.

The money is traded for a small portion of your case proceeds to repay the advance.

Like a “no win, no fee” attorney, our repayment is contingent upon you winning or settling your claim, which means there is no risk to you, the plaintiff, who can receive funding on your claim.

So, if you need financial help during your pending lawsuit or want to learn more about legal funding and how it differs from a loan, call us to learn more.

Our funding team does our best to make the application process a free consultation learning opportunity where plaintiffs can learn more helpful facts and truth about pre-settlement funding.

(It is important to note that the financing we provide to claimants in Missouri is a loan product and, therefore, not risk-free. The contracts for the loans we provide in Missouri are required to have truth in lending disclosures.

That is not possible in some other states due to those states’ definitions of what is deemed a loan or interest rate caps.

Pre-settlement loans in the state of Missouri are loans and must, technically by law, be repaid. Express Legal Funding-Missouri, LLC is licensed to give these loans in MO)

In the meantime, regardless of whether you need to apply for pre-settlement funding, the Express Legal Funding blog is here to help you learn more about your legal rights. We are proud to continue to improve and make free our peer-reviewed and praised legal resource blog.

About the Author

Author profile
Strategy Director at Express Legal Funding | Author Website

Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title "The Legal Funding Expert" through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, tens of thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R. Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).
In 2023, Aaron and Express Legal Funding received accolades in a leading SEO author case study performed by the leading professionals at WordLift. The in-depth data presented in the pre-settlement funding SEO case study demonstrate why Aaron Winston maintains a high-author E-E-A-T. His original writing and helpful content continue to achieve unprecedented success and stand in their own class.

Aaron was born in Lubbock, TX, where he spent the first eight years of his life. Aaron attended Akiba Academy of Dallas, TX.

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