Saving Money on Legal Fees With a Dallas Record Clearing Lawyer

Saving Money on Legal Fees With a Dallas Record Clearing Lawyer

Having a criminal record can really hold you back in life. It can make it harder to get a good job, rent an apartment, or get approved for loans. Fortunately, in Texas there are legal options like record expungement that can help clear your criminal record. But hiring a lawyer to handle your expungement can get expensive. Here are some tips for saving money on legal fees with a Dallas record clearing attorney.

Understand the Different Fee Structures

Criminal defense lawyers typically charge fees in a few different ways:

  • Hourly rate – You pay by the hour for the lawyer’s time working on your case. Rates often range from $200-$500 per hour.
  • Flat fee – You pay one lump sum upfront for the lawyer to handle specific parts of the case like preparing documents or attending a hearing.
  • Retainer – You pay an upfront lump sum which the lawyer draws from as they work. You replenish the retainer if it runs low.

Many lawyers offer free consultations, so make sure to ask about their fee structures. An experienced lawyer with higher rates might get your case dismissed faster, saving you money compared to a cheaper, less experienced attorney.

Negotiate the Retainer Fee

If the lawyer requires a retainer fee upfront, try negotiating a lower amount. Ask if they’ll allow a payment plan to split up the retainer into multiple installments. Non-refundable retainers mean you likely won’t get that money back, so refundable retainers are better since unspent funds get returned to you.

See If You Qualify for a Public Defender

Public defenders provide legal representation free of charge if you can prove financial hardship. To qualify, you’ll have to verify income, expenses, assets, and liabilities showing you can’t afford a lawyer. Public defenders handle a high caseload, so expect less individual attention.

Request a Payment Plan

Many attorneys allow legal fees to be paid over time through a monthly payment plan instead of one lump sum. Plans often require a percentage upfront as a retainer, with the balance paid in installments. Payment plans make legal help more affordable, but aren’t always an option for complex cases.

Use Legal Aid Resources

Organizations like the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program provide pro bono or low-cost legal assistance if you meet income eligibility guidelines. Legal aid programs can connect you with volunteer lawyers willing to help you for free or at reduced rates.

Comparison Shop Rates

Less experienced lawyers typically charge lower rates as they build up their reputation and expertise. For non-complex expungement cases, hiring a newer attorney with 5+ years experience can offer big savings compared to veteran lawyers.

Get Estimates for Different Case Stages

Ask your potential lawyer for separate rate quotes for each phase of your case, like investigation, drafting documents, court appearances, etc. Breaking down fees helps you budget for costs and prevent sticker shock down the line.

Ask About Discounts for Paying Upfront

Some attorneys offer discounts if you pay most or all of their fees upfront rather than in installments over time. Paying upfront gives the lawyer more incentive to resolve your case quickly.

Take Advantage of Free Legal Resources

The Texas Legal Services Center offers free legal forms, information, and resources you can use to reduce the time your lawyer needs to spend on research and drafting basic documents.

Don’t Pay Anything Without a Signed Fee Agreement

Never pay a lawyer anything until you’ve signed a fee agreement you fully understand and approve. Reputable lawyers will always require this before accepting payment.

See If You Qualify for Fee Waivers on Required Classes

If convicted of certain crimes like DWI, you may have to take mandated classes as part of your sentence. See if the class provider offers fee waivers or discounts for people who can’t afford the full cost.

Carefully Consider the Benefits of a Plea Deal

Court cases require lots of time off work and personal sacrifices beyond just legal fees. Discuss with your lawyer whether accepting a plea deal might be less disruptive and expensive overall compared to a lengthy trial.

Be Open to Hiring a New Lawyer if Costs Mount

If your legal fees start spiraling out of control with your current lawyer, don’t be afraid to switch to another attorney. New lawyers often appreciate the business and will work to keep costs down.

Ask About Payment for Court Costs and Filing Fees

Expungement requires paying various court costs and filing fees. Ask if these are included in the lawyer’s quoted rates or if you pay them separately. This avoids surprise expenses down the road.

See If a Lawyer Will Accept Credit Card Payments

Many attorneys accept credit card payments which allows you to earn rewards points and potentially defer interest costs if you pay off the balance quickly. Just be sure to ask about any processing fees they might charge.

Hiring an attorney to clear your Dallas criminal record can get expensive. But following these tips can help you control costs and still get the experienced legal help you need. With persistence and smart negotiating, you can reduce legal fees and save money on your Texas record expungement case.