“They have to pay my attorney’s fees, right?”
That is the infamous question everyone wants to know. Typically, after meeting with an attorney and learning that you may have some actionable claims against your former employer, your first thought may be: “how will I afford to go after my former employer?” and “if I do spend my savings/retirement funds in litigating, they have to pay my attorney’s fees, right?”
There’s no right answer to these questions. Usually you have the right to file for attorney’s fees if the statue you are filing under provides for attorney’s fees. However, if you reach a settlement short of a jury trial, employers are hesitant, and often will not want to pay your attorney’s fees. Most settlement agreements include language such as “inclusive of attorney’s fees,” meaning the amount you accept includes whatever you have paid or have agreed to pay your attorney.
Keep in mind, even after a jury rules in favor of your case, your attorney still has to file a motion for attorney’s fees. Therefore, simply because you are victorious at trial still does not mean your attorney’s fees and costs may be reimbursed.
So how should you handle these concerns? Speak clearly to your attorney and read thoroughly your retainer. Your attorney may be willing to represent you on a contingency basis (aside from a minimum fee charge), which means the attorney will collect a percentage of what you settle for, or win at trial. This type of arrangement may sometimes give attorneys a bad rap, but such opinions are short sighted. Attorneys do not agree to represent their clients on a contingency basis to harm their client, they do it for the complete opposite reason. An attorney’s hourly rate can range anywhere from $200 to $800 an hour. And an attorney can easily spend over 100 hours representing you for as short as year. Therefore, rather than charging you such a rate (which many cannot afford), they agree to represent you on a contingency basis; meaning you do not pay them for everything they do on your case, you only share with them a portion of the final recovery. Most importantly, the Florida Bar regulates what that percentage should be; therefore, if you feel your attorney may be collecting more than they should, check the Florida Bar website to assure they are following the most updated approved rates.
To conclude, it is important to always keep costs in mind and make sure you can afford each and every endeavor you plan to take with litigation. However, relying on having a judge rule that you are entitled to recover your attorney’s fees is not the only way to afford an attorney. At Wilson McCoy, we work with each of our clients’ within their respective budgets, to help them establish a retainer payment plan that they can afford. You do not have to be rich to afford an attorney. If you believe you may have a case against your employer, give us a call at (407) 803-5400, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, for an analysis of your situation and to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys to see how we can help with your employment issue.