Getting the Client to Pay Your Attorney’s Fees

Like most lawyers,  I get paid in US Dollars and in pancake.

Like most lawyers, I get paid in US Dollars and in pancake.

In the American judicial system, for the most part, everybody has to pay their own way. If there is a problem with the wedding, the wedding vendor will have to pay her own legal fees and court costs, and the clients will have to pay their own legal fees and court costs. That’s just how we do.

There are some statutes that will shift this, i.e., the losing party has to pay for the winning party’s attorney’s fees. So for example, copyright infringement is like that. Most of the time, if you register with the US Copyright office a photograph, rap song, nude drawing of Ryan Gosling, or whatever you got, and somebody infringes on it, if you are successful in your lawsuit, you can likely get your attorneys fees paid for. Another example, in Georgia, if someone brings a completely crazy claim against you, or is unreasonably litigious beyond all objective standards, and you are successful, then you may be awarded attorneys fees. These statutory exceptions are rare, and are almost always not applicable to shift the default rule that everyone pays their own way.

However, public policy allows business owners to contract against the default rule that everybody goes ‘legal Dutch.’ (my term). So a clause that you might consider is an attorneys fees clause. This will let the client know that if you are successful in a claim against the client, then the client will not only have to pay the ultimate judgment, but will have to fork over some extra to compensate you for attorney’s fees.

And again, this type of clause is important because when you’re sitting at your dining room table trying to figure out like, “Okay, these are my expectation damages. This is how much it’s going to cost me to bring this lawsuit and I’ve assessed it’s worth it in the long run to go to court,” also being awarded attorneys fees might help sway whether or not you ultimately decide to pull the trigger.


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