What is a contingency fee arrangement?

Some lawyers take cases “on contingency.” This means they receive payment only if you settle or win a verdict. These arrangements are common in cases involving personal injury. Typically, the attorney will take between 33 and 40 percent of any recovery. In employment cases, there is a similar fee arrangement by which the defendant pays your attorney fees if you win. Some federal and state employment and civil rights laws allow for this. They are called fee-shifting statutes. The concept is similar to contingency fee agreements: the attorney gets paid (or you get your fees reimbursed) if you win your case. Some people get confused and call these fee arrangements “pro bono.” Pro bono cases are those in which the attorney handles the case without any payment. Legal aid and many legal clinics in the D.C. area provide these services.