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What is No Win No Fee?

Rhonda Rivera
Rhonda Rivera

Also known as a conditional fee or contingent fee, no win no fee is a fee that is paid only if the service given provided a favorable outcome. This term is most often used to describe a lawyer that does not charge unless he or she wins the case. No win no fee law services give people who cannot ordinarily afford lawyer and court fees a chance to pursue their civil rights. Another advantage of this service is that the lawyer often works diligently to win the case because, if he or she loses, there is no profit at all. The legality of these arrangements vary by jurisdiction, with some jurisdictions only allowing them under specific circumstances.

The fee structure is often determined by law, but most lawyers do not charge nearly as much as the local laws allow. A legal fee might be upwards to 100% of the damages allotted to the client, or up to 100% of the damages plus the lawyer’s regular hourly fees. Most lawyers charge somewhere between 25% to 50% of the total damages, however. It is often illegal to offer a lawyer more than 100% of the damages for winning a case, in addition to being highly controversial. In these cases, the client is normally attempting to prove a point, raise awareness of an issue, or seek vengeance.

Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone
Businesswoman talking on a mobile phone

An hourly attorney can be very expensive unless a person has legal expenses insurance. A major advantage of no win no fee is that it gives poor people legal aid. With a no win no fee lawyer, they can defend their rights while working with someone who really wants to win.

The downside of no win no fee is that lawyers are extremely choosy about what cases they will take. Since they receive nothing — not even an hourly wage — for losing, the arrangement is usually too risky to take on large, time consuming, and expensive lawsuits. Even if a client’s rights were violated in a blatant manner, a lawyer might still hesitant to take on the case if the opposing party is known for their absolute refusal to settle in most cases.

No win no fee services are not legal in some jurisdictions. At least one dozen countries allow this kind of fee structure to some extent, however, but they often do not allow them in criminal or family law cases. This fee is considered standard and everyday in some of these countries.

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