Who Pays an Attorney Hired To Recover Unpaid Wages?

Who Pays an Attorney Hired To Recover Unpaid Wages

The New York state and federal laws guarantee its workers the right to be paid for all of the hours they have worked. Unfortunately, employers tend to violate these laws, either intentionally or unintentionally. This leaves workers to fight for their rights. However, going through this legal process is a complicated and challenging thing. That is why workers turn to unpaid wages lawyers.

In most types of law practice, lawyers receive compensation for the legal services they provide. After all, law firms are businesses too. But, people who have to go to court to fight for their right to get paid and who desperately need legal representation often don’t have the money to pay for an experienced unpaid wages lawyer.

This is why most of such lawyers work on the basis of the so-called contingency fee arrangement. This is an arrangement between a lawyer and a client which exists solely for this reason. But, how exactly does this arrangement work? Read on to discover what you need to know about contingency fees.

The Basics of Contingency Fee Arrangements

A contingency fee is a type of payment to a lawyer that only happens when their client receives some kind of monetary recovery in their case, either through settlement or by winning the case at trial. To put it simply, a contingency fee arrangement means that a lawyer works in return for a percentage of a verdict, settlement, or a jury award and not for an hourly charge. When an attorney works for a contingency fee, it means he or she is getting paid only if their client recovers damages.

In a contingency fee arrangement, there is no upfront charge for the lawyer’s services. In fact, a client never makes an out-of-pocket payment. The contingency fee actually comes out of the compensation the lawyer recovers on their clients behalf. If an attorney settles an unpaid wage claim with the defendant (an employer who is being sued), the contingency fee is deducted from the settlement. However, if the claim goes to court, the attorney will represent the client. If the verdict or jury award goes in the plaintiff’s favor, the contingency fee will be deducted from that when the employer pays all that he owes to his employee.

It’s also good to know that no recovery of damages with contingency fees means no legal fees. In other words, the lawyer gets paid only if their client recovers unpaid wages.

Why is Contingency Fee Arrangement so Useful for Workers Who Want to File an Unpaid Wage Claim in New York?

Contingency fee arrangements are a common thing in unpaid wages claims. Professional legal representation can be expensive. Contingency fees are ideal for those who may not afford a lawyer’s hourly rate to pursue their outstanding wage claim. Contingency fees allow such people to hire an attorney without having to worry about legal bills on top of other expenses that may be piling up.

Contingency fee arrangements work for both lawyers and clients. That is because the lawyer’s interests are aligned with their client’s interests.

In different fee arrangements, an attorney is hired to perform work at a set hourly rate. The client often has to pay a certain amount of money upfront, which is called a ‘retainer.’ This sum can be difficult to come by to a person who is already struggling with problems due to unpaid wages. More so, if the retainer runs out or the client is not able to pay their bill, an attorney may stop representing them. Contingency fee arrangements help ensure that if an attorney takes an unpaid wage claim, he or she will work on it until it is finished.

Contingency fee arrangements allow clients to have their unpaid wage claims evaluated by a professional lawyer at no cost. A legal claim evaluation can be quite expensive, and many clients simply don’t have enough resources for it. On the other hand, it takes effort, training, time, and experience for an attorney to understand the strengths and weaknesses of an unpaid wage claim. The contingency fee arrangement allows workers from the state of New York to get a lawyer’s consultation without spending the little money they have out of their pocket.

What is a Contingency Fee Agreement?

When working with an attorney on a contingency fee basis, a client may have to sign a contingency fee agreement. The agreement discusses the time and work an attorney will put into the unpaid wage claim. It will also inform the client if other costs may arise with their claim.

The contingency fee agreement outlines what costs are covered and what costs are not. The agreement also depends on the facts of the client’s case and their situation. In most cases, the client will have no direct, out-of-pocket costs.

Costs that can be discussed in a contingency fee agreement include:

  • Expert analysis – If the client’s claim requires an expert to study the case, there may be related costs;
  • Court fees – If an unpaid wage claim goes to trial, there may be some court fees;
  • Costs for certified records – Authorities may charge certain fees for any official copies of records needed for the claim.

In most cases, these costs can be deducted from a verdict or a settlement, leaving clients with no direct expenses. Our lawyers at Cilenti & Cooper will work to craft a contingency fee agreement that works best for every client.

How Much Can a Contingency Fee Cost?

The amount of a contingency fee can depend on several factors. They are:

Attorney’s time and effort – The amount of time and effort an attorney puts into a claim can affect the contingency fee. An attorney can’t know for sure how complex a case can be. However, an experienced attorney may be able to estimate how much time and effort your claim may require.

Some unpaid wage claims have a strong set of documents and evidence to support them. Some don’t. In cases where outcomes are uncertain, the attorney is risking their time, effort, and resources to move your claim forward. Risk can affect the contingency fee amount.

Settlement and trial – Most unpaid wage claims tend to get settled before a trial. A settlement is definitely a quicker and more cost-effective end to the unpaid wage claim. However, if a claim goes to trial, that can result in a significant amount of preparation and research that the attorney will have to do. Although there is no possibility to predict whether a claim will go to a trial, an experienced attorney may be able to estimate.


When you believe your wage is incorrect or even nonexistent, the first course of action should be to talk with your employer. There may have been a simple administrative error, or your employer may not fully comprehend the law. Whatever the case is, if your employer is unwilling to resolve the issue, Cilenti & Cooper is ready to help. We are committed to protecting the rights of New York workers in a variety of industries and have successfully handled numerous unpaid wage claims on behalf of office employees, construction workers, healthcare professionals, and restaurant employees, to name a few. We pursue claims for individuals and class action claims where an entire group of workers has experienced some form of wage theft.

Experienced and knowledgeable lawyers, like those at Cilenti & Cooper, can help you with your unpaid wage claim if you need a contingent fee arrangement. Legal proceedings are typically complex and can be financially straining, which is why we offer our New York clients this service. We provide our hard-working clients with the best service possible to ensure they receive the deserved compensation. An experienced New York lawyer can handle your case professionally by thoroughly examining the state laws and how they apply to your unpaid wage claim. If we win your case at trial or negotiate a settlement, you will not have to pay legal fees. That’s the beauty of a contingent fee arrangement.

To find out whether you have a case worth pursuing, feel free to contact Cilenti & Cooper today. We know that you are busy trying to get by with your daily obligations and a current issue with your employer, but time may be of the essence, so don’t wait to reach out.



Let us fight to recover the wages you have earned.

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