How do I find a lawyer who'll work on contingency?

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Question:

I was badly injured by someone acting recklessly on an ice rink last month, and would like to sue the other skater and possibly the rink. Unfortunately, I don't have the money to pay an attorney up front. How do I find a lawyer who will take a lawsuit on contingency?

Answer:

In a contingency fee arrangement, a lawyer agrees to represent you and to get paid only if you win, then takes his or her fee as a percentage of what you are awarded. Whether a lawyer can and will agree to this type of gamble may depend more on the type of case than the type of lawyer.

Common sorts of cases that lawyers will take on a contingency fee are those involving personal injuries, employment discrimination, sexual harassment, malpractice, and other cases in which there are likely to be substantial recoveries.

A lawyer sniffing out a possible contingency fee will make an educated -- and often not so educated -- guess about how complex the case will be and how much time it will take, then assess whether he or she will take it on a contingency fee. Lawyers are most likely to take cases on contingency if they think that the likely recoveries are big enough to make it worth their while.

Shop for a lawyer as carefully as you might pick out the first kumquat of the season: Go slowly and compare; squeeze each one a little. Inquire about an hourly arrangement, a fee estimate, your likelihood of success and how much the lawyer expects you'll receive in damages, and how the lawyer will approach your case.

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