Federal Disability Retirement: How do attorneys charge fees for FERS or CSRS Disability retirement applications to OPM and appeals to MSPBBy Chris Attig | Permalink
December 15th in Federal Disability Retirement.
In an earlier post, I suggested that the best way to be sure you are comfortable working with an attorney is to talk to as many as you can about your case. In doing this, it will be helpful to understand how attorneys charge fees.
1) Consultation Fee: This is a fee that most Firms charge to determine, initially, if your case is one that the Firm is interested in. Some firms do not charge consultation fees, some firms do. I have seen consultation fees ranging from nominal ($25-$50) all the way up to the attorney’s regular hourly rate ($250-$450 per hour). Law Firms charge this fee for a couple reasons, but primarily to defray the overhead involved in previewing your case, collecting the documents to do a reasonable review of your case, and the Firm and attorney’s time in preparing to give you good guidance during an initial consultation.
2) Contingency Fee: This type of fee arrangement occurs where the law firm agrees to represent you, in exchange for a percentage of any recovery. Usually, that percentage will range from 20% to 45%. If it is any lower, you should be suspicious: this amount would usually not be enough to fairly compensate an attorney for his or her time on a case, so you should be wary of the old adage that you get what you pay for. If it is any higher than 45%, you should be extremely suspicious – I have only heard of contingency arrangements higher than 45% of the award in a select few cases. Read the language on a contingency fee contract carefully. While not having to pay costs up front, you will likely have to pay costs out of your share of the award.
3) Fixed Fees: Some attorneys will agree to represent you in your MSPB appeal or application to OPM for a fixed fee. This type of fee is a one-time fee that you pay for representation over an agreed period of time. The fixed fee can be a monthly fee for each month that your case goes on, or one fee for the application and another for the MSPB appeal, etc. In an event, it fixes your legal costs to a known dollar amount. The down side? Fixed fees can often be fairly high, as the attorney or law firm does not want to run the risk that they will put more time and costs into the case than the fixed fee will allow them to cover.
4) Retainers and Hourly Fees: This is the most traditional method for attorney fees. You pay a sum to the attorney, it is held in a Trust Account, and periodically, the attorney takes payment out of the trust account for hours worked and fees expended. The plus side of an hourly fee arrangment is that if the attorney doesn’t spend all of the retainer, you will receive a refund of the unused portion. The down side is that these types of fees are usually unpredictable, and can get quite expensive, particularly when an attorney has a higher hourly rate.
A word about hourly rates. The attorneys hourly rate is set by each attorney and each firm based on its own internal decision making process. Typically, the hourly rate includes the cost of running the firm (hiring secretarial staff, equipment, office space, storage space, copiers, computers, fax machines, etc.). This is why the hourly rate can vary widely from city to city. The average hourly rate of an attorney in Washington, D.C., is going to be higher than the hourly rate of an attorney in Dallas, Texas, just because it is more expensive to own and operate a firm in Washington, D.C. Many attorneys are maligned for high hourly fees – the greater public thinks we get rich off our hourly rates – not true. I agree that some of the big firms tend to have unusually high or exorbitant hourly rates; for most small law firms, boutique or niche practices, or solo practitioners, the hourly rate is barely enough to keep the power on and the phones ringing.
5) Engagement Retainers: More and more attorneys are charging engagement retainers. This type of retainer, also called a True Retainer, is a one-time payment to a firm or attorney which enables them to make time available to represent you (and not some other client).
6) Blended Arrangements: This is where any one of the two above-arrangements are blended together. In some situations, an attorney will charge a fixed fee for the first stage of the FERS or CSRS disability retirement application process, and work the second stage on another fee basis. Blended arrangements are more and more common – attorneys as a community are striving to find a better balance between affordable legal representation and paying the costs associate with a law practice.
No post on this website is legal advice, is meant to be legal advice, and certainly does not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the federal employee, with some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to Federal Employees.
The Attig Law Firm represents Federal employees under FERS or CSRS in their applications for federal disability retirement to OPM. If an application for federal disability retirement is denied, the Firm represents Federal employees under both FERS and CSRS in their MSPB appeals of denials of federal disability retirement applications by OPM.
It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and disability retirement appeals to discuss the facts and law of your particular case. If you have questions about federal disability retirement under FERS or CSRS, or OPM’s denial of your applications for federal disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, contact an MSPB attorney or a Federal Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer at the Attig Law Firm to schedule a telephone consultation.