The cost of hiring an attorney to negotiate with your creditors can vary significantly depending on your circumstances. In most cases, how much a lawyer will charge depends on:
- the scope of work the attorney performs
- the type and amount of debt you have, and
- how difficult it will be to settle the debt.
(Learn more about the pros and cons of using a lawyer to negotiate with your creditors.)
Attorney Fees Depend on What Work Will Be Done
In general, an attorney’s fees are directly related to how much work he or she will have to perform. If you want to negotiate with your creditors, you may be able to hire an attorney to:
- handle the entire negotiation process until settlement, or
- perform a specific task related to the negotiation (called an unbundled service), such as drafting a settlement proposal.
What is an unbundled service? If you don’t want to hire an attorney to handle the entire negotiation process, you can ask him or her to provide an unbundled service. An unbundled service is a specific task that the attorney will complete for a fee. In debt negotiation, the most common unbundled service is drafting a settlement proposal to the creditor.
If you hire an attorney to write a letter to the creditor, it can start the negotiation process. But you will be responsible for negotiating and ultimately settling the debt on your own. For this reason, an unbundled service will cost less than hiring an attorney to handle the entire negotiation.
Common Debt Negotiation Attorney Fee Structures
To negotiate with your creditors, an attorney may charge:
- a flat fee per creditor (or debt)
- an hourly fee
- a fee based on the amount of debt you have, or
- a fee based on how much the settlement saves you.
How Much Will an Attorney Charge to Negotiate With Your Creditors?
The following are some of the most common examples of how much an attorney may charge you to negotiate with your creditors.
Flat Fee Per Creditor or Debt
Depending on how many creditors you want the attorney to negotiate with, he or she may charge you a flat fee to handle the entire negotiation through settlement. The fee amount will typically depend on the number and type of creditors you have. In general, average fees can range from $500 to negotiate a simple credit card debt to more than $5,000 for more complex negotiations.
Fees Per Hour
The attorney may also charge you an hourly fee to negotiate with your creditors. In that case, the lawyer may agree to let you pay as you go or require a retainer (a lump sum of money) to begin negotiations. An attorney’s hourly rate will depend on several factors including the amount of experience he or she has and where you live. In many cases, you can expect a debt negotiation attorney to charge anywhere from $125 to $350 per hour.
Fees Based on the Amount of Debt You Have
An attorney may also base fees on the amount of debt you have. In most cases, the fee will be a specific percentage of the amount of debt the attorney will negotiate on your behalf.
Fees Based on Amount Saved
Similar to fees based on the amount of your debt, an attorney may charge you a percentage of the money you will save with the settlement. With this kind of arrangement, the attorney’s fees increase with the amount you save, which gives the attorney more incentive to get you the best possible settlement.
Circumstances That May Increase Attorney Fees
An attorney may charge a higher fee if:
- the creditor has filed a lawsuit against you
- the creditor has obtained a judgment against you, or
- you want to negotiate or modify the terms of a secured debt such as your car loan or mortgage (learn more about negotiating with car loan lenders).
Talk to Different Attorneys in Your Area
Because the amount of fees a lawyer will charge can vary significantly based on your individual circumstances, talk to several debt negotiation attorneys in your area to compare the fees they would charge in your case.