What Does an Appeal Cost?

This is always a fair question. But it is not easy to answer. Fundamentally, almost all appellate attorneys use one of three methods to charge for their services.

First: A few attorneys will use a contingency fee agreement. This means they pay the lawyer an agreed upon percentage of what they win. This is common in personal injury cases in the trial court. This can work if you were the plaintiff in the superior court and are suing for money. It doesn’t work well for a client who was a defendant and doesn’t want to pay money. Issues concern the strength of your appeal, time involved to go through the process, and the “what if” if the Court of Appeal simply returns your case for a brand new trial.

Second:  This attorney is one of a minority of appellate attorneys that will take your appeal on a fixed fee. This means that the attorney and you will agree on a specific amount the attorney will charge you for his services. In addition to his fixed fee for his services you will also need to pay certain itemized out of pocket expenses that will be listed in your fee agreement. This option provides the client certainty as to the amount the appeal will cost the client.

Third: The dominant method is the hourly rate method. The attorney and the client agree that the attorney will charge the client by the amount of time the attorney spends on your case. This  makes it more difficult to predict the total cost. In addition to paying the appellate attorney’s hourly rate the client will pay certain out of pocket costs.

Costs: In addition to the attorney’s fee, the client will incur certain costs. These costs generally are very limited as compared to the trial court. These costs  include:

  • filing fee for the appeal, or to file a respondent’s brief ;
  • the cost of the reporter’s transcript (usually the most expensive cost): and
  • cost of photocopying the documents used in the trial court (called the Clerk’s Transcript or Appellant’s Appendix).

Payment options: This attorney has flexible payment options. He will work with the client to establish a “fixed fee” that the client will pay at the start. This will be the total amount the client pays for professional fees. The attorney will also discuss a “payment plan” establishing a monthly payment schedule.  Second,  the attorney will work with the client as to a fee agreement based on a standard hourly agreement. The attorney believes that providing the client these two payment options assists the clients in making their appellate cost decisions.