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Hire a lawyer: When can a lawyer ask for money?

As a participant in legal disputes, hiring a lawyer is often a necessary step in order to avert greater damage. This also helps with the enforcement of claims and fends off unjustified claims.

How can I hire a lawyer?

Legal conflicts can arise in the Relationship to other private individuals result as well as behavior that violates applicable legal norms. Even if the legislature does not provide for a lawyer to be required, the expertise of a lawyer is often necessary. With the necessary specialist knowledge, he can help ensure that the conflict is resolved promptly and to the satisfaction of the client.

In principle, a lawyer can be commissioned orally or in writing. The lawyer's contract is not bound to any specific form - it is therefore sufficient that the client asks the lawyer by phone to take action and provides the necessary information.

The lawyer's contract is concluded when case-related information is sent to the lawyer.

Although the lawyer's contract is the basis for the relationship between client and lawyer, it is not explicitly regulated in the law. In the event of ambiguity, this often leads to difficulties with the legal classification. The lawyer’s contract is correct as a paid agency contract within the meaning of §§ 675ff. of the German Civil Code (BGB for short).

What are the requirements for the lawyer contract?

In the absence of express legal regulations, the above-mentioned Regulations for the agency agreement used. They are supplemented by the professional regulations of the Federal Lawyers' Act (in short: BRAO). These provide, for example, in § 43a BRAO that the lawyer is obliged to maintain secrecy, but according to § 44 BRAO also the obligation to notify a client immediately of the rejection or acceptance of an order.

The lawyer's contract itself is not bound by any specific formal requirements: It therefore does not need to be in writing. According to constant jurisprudence, an order can also come about through conclusive behavior: Here, however, strict requirements must be set - especially in terms of legal certainty.

What are the costs of hiring a lawyer?

If you hire a lawyer, the activities for the client are regularly associated with legal fees. According to § 49b BRAO, the Lawyers' Remuneration Act (RVG for short) is relevant within the framework of the lawyer's contract. It contains the regulations on the fee including the respective amount of costs and the calculation bases that are important. The decisive factor is the amount in dispute: it has a significant influence on the lawyer's fees.

The cost of hiring a lawyer can quickly become a financial burden in a legal dispute. This is especially true if the amount in dispute is high. In many cases, legal expenses insurance will cover the costs.

The law expressly does not provide for free activities of the lawyer - so even simple advice or information from the lawyer is already subject to remuneration according to § 8 RVG. This applies regardless of whether the lawyer only expresses himself orally or provides a corresponding note in writing.

Conclusion of a fee agreement

There is no obligation for the lawyer to actually account for his work according to the RVG. He can also conclude a fee agreement with the client, the fees of which differ significantly from those in the RVG. This is not always motivated by the attorney's pursuit of profit: Rather, attorneys are often forced to conclude a fee agreement in order to be able to cover their costs at all.

The fee agreement can provide for a flat fee or a time fee. These differ significantly:

  • Flat-rate remuneration: The fee is paid for the entire legal work and is independent of the success or failure of the legal support.
  • Time allowance: The fee is paid according to the previously agreed hourly fee after detailed evidence of the time required.

Important to know: In legal practice, mixed forms of lump-sum and time-based remuneration are also possible.

Is it permissible to agree a contingency fee?

In principle, when hiring a lawyer, the agreement of a contingency fee is not permitted. The legislator has expressly standardized this in Section 49b (2) BRAO:

Section 49b BRAO remuneration


Agreements by which a remuneration or its amount is made dependent on the outcome of the matter or the success of the legal activity or according to which the lawyer receives part of the amount won as a fee (success fee) are inadmissible, unless otherwise stipulated in the Lawyers' Fees Act.

However, there are exceptions here too - a deviation from the principle mentioned is possible if, under certain conditions, the agreement of a contingency fee is kept within certain limits. The most important application for this is given by § 4a RVG: According to this, a success fee is always permissible when mandating a lawyer if the client would have refrained from legal support without such an agreement.

When can a lawyer ask for money?

It often happens that the lawyer demands an advance payment in the course of his work - even though the proceedings have not yet ended. The question here is whether this advance payment is even permissible.

The legislature expressly provides for the possibility in § 9 RVG: According to this, the lawyer can demand an appropriate advance payment from his client, which is based on the fees and expenses incurred and likely to arise.

The lawyer himself determines the point in time for the advance payment: he can request it when he commences his work as a lawyer, but also only in the course of the mandate himself.

Important to know: The lawyer can only request an advance to the extent that he has already been commissioned. If, for example, he is only commissioned for a certain procedural section, then the advance payment may only extend to that - and not to possible further procedural sections for which no commission has yet been placed.

Can I arrange payment in installments?

The cost of legal representation often causes clients to hesitate with the appropriate assignment. This applies not only to out-of-court representation, but also when a lawsuit is to be filed or the law even explicitly requires a lawyer.

In addition to support through advisory and legal aid, the agreement of installment payments is always an issue in legal practice. These are generally permissible and can be discussed in an initial conversation with the lawyer.

Important to know: An installment payment is always a financial service that involves a risk of default. Smaller law firms in particular cannot and do not want to take this risk and therefore forego the offer to offer installment payments themselves. It is then possible that a bank takes over the financing of the mandate instead of the law firm - numerous providers have already established themselves here with corresponding offers.

As a participant in a legal dispute, you should not worry about the costs involved - if you cannot afford a lawyer, you will receive direct support from advice and legal aid.

When should I hire a lawyer?

Not every conflict requires legal support: Whether and when you hire a lawyer is therefore entirely up to you. This is to be assessed differently if there is a legal problem that goes hand in hand with meeting deadlines - then the appointment of a lawyer is indicated as early as possible. Keep in mind that when deadlines have passed, they usually have extremely negative effects and the consequences cannot be reversed.

This also applies to contract negotiations: whether professional or purely private - if the contract value exceeds a mid four-digit amount, the consultation of a lawyer is regularly recommended.

Since a lawyer also plays an important role in the out-of-court resolution of conflicts, his expertise does not necessarily have to be used only in the context of a court hearing. Whether mediation or arbitration proceedings: Here too, the lawyer can provide valuable impulses that bring a conflict resolution within reach.

What happens after the lawyer has been hired?

The mandate has been granted and the first interview with the lawyer is scheduled: This first appointment should also be prepared in the interests of all parties involved. This includes not only relevant documents such as contract documents or certificates, but also all information that could be relevant for the legal assessment of the case.

Finally, you will receive the most important information in our checklist so that you are well prepared for the first interview with the lawyer:

  • Clarify remuneration for legal support and, if necessary, apply for advice or legal aid or agree on payment in installments.
  • Prepare and compile documents related to the case.
  • Prepare personal data and, if necessary, that of the legal counterpart.
  • Do you have legal expenses insurance? Also prepare insurance documents and take them with you.
  • Last, but not least: Are you clear about your personal goals - what do you want or have to achieve and how can the lawyer help you?

Would you like to hire a lawyer? If you have any questions, we will be happy to help you with an initial consultation. After this you can decide whether you would like a suitable lawyer or legal representation to be hired. Our competent specialist lawyers are at your side with legal advice and support you in all matters.

Do you have a legal question?

Then simply use KLUGO legal advice. Legal advice is a telephone conversation with a certified lawyer from our network.

Article legally checked by the KLUGO editorial team

The article was created with great care by the KLUGO editorial team and legally checked. In addition, we supplement our guide with valuable tips directly from the experts: Our specialized partner lawyers show what is important for the respective topic.
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