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What are Legal Expenses?

Jessica Ellis
Updated Jan 31, 2024
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Legal expenses are the costs involved in pursuing a legal action, such as a court case. While many think of legal expenses as simply what it costs to hire a lawyer, the truth is that expenses for any type of legal work can include dozens of costs, from photocopying to filing fees. Understanding some of the different types of legal expenses can help a person determine what, exactly, is being given for the money.

A large portion of the legal costs do go directly to attorneys. Some lawyers require a consultation fee for examining the facts of the case, a retainer fee to accept the case, and then an hourly fee for work done on the case. An attorney's fee may be exorbitant for many people, but there are also many lawyers that work on a sliding scale or even take some cases for free. Many regions require that a defendant in a case be provided a lawyer, whether or not he or she can pay for it.

Legal expenses often include a significant amount for office use and costs. Office costs may include faxing, photocopying, use of supplies, and time put in by assistants, paralegals, and secretaries. In order to get a full idea of why a fee is so high, consider asking the law firm for an itemized list of each cost. This will allow a person to see exactly how much has been charged for each separate section of legal expenses.

In order to build a cohesive case, a lawyer may need to bring in other professionals for advice, information, reports, and even testimony. Legal expenses may include the hiring of expert witnesses, consultants, and private investigators. In addition to a fee for their time, the client may also have to pay for travel expenses, including transportation, housing, and a stipend.

Court costs are often considered part of legal expenses. These may include filing fees, payment for the court reporter, deposition fees, and other courtroom-related costs. In some cases, payment for court fees is part of the settlement, but this cannot always be relied upon. In a civil dispute, the losing party may find him or herself responsible for covering the court fees for both parties.

To deal with the high cost of legal expenses, many people try to find alternate ways around a traditional court case. Divorcing couples, for instance, may try to work out an equitable settlement on their own or through mediation, in order to avoid having to go through a lengthy court process that requires lawyers. Businesses that have a high risk of liability may also sometimes take out legal expense insurance, which provides a funding in the event of a lawsuit.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for WiseGeek. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
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Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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