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How can I pay for legal services for my game development project?

California game lawyer Zachary Strebeck explains the various methods for paying an attorney and which might be a better fit depending on the financial situation of the game developer.

 

The legal profession offers multiple ways to pay for services.

The legal profession offers multiple ways to pay for services. Depending on the attorney, they may work under any number of financial arrangements.

Fee structures:

Hourly Billing:

You get billed for the number of actual hours that the attorney spends working on your matter. This can, depending on the complexity of the work, quickly get out of hand. Additionally, you are generally going to be paying for every minute that the attorney is on the phone or composing an email. Then you get your bill at the end of the month, with no real clue beforehand how much it will be beyond an estimate from the attorney at the beginning.

Flat fee/Unbundled Legal Services:

This can be a great option for those who only need particular services performed and are on a limited budget.

Rather than opting for a “full service” representation, this method of legal billing quotes a specific fee up front that will not change. The scope of the services are limited to specifically that agreed-upon assignment. This can be a great option for those who only need particular services performed and are on a limited budget.

Contingency:

Often found in litigation, such as personal injury and class action lawsuits, this type of fee arrangement eschews up-front payment for services in return for a larger cut of the judgment or settlement if the lawsuit is successful.

Payment methods:

Retainer:

Having a lawyer on retainer means that you give the attorney a sum of money that is kept in a trust account. As the attorney bills hours, the money is taken out of that account. This, as you can probably guess, is the most expensive route and requires most of the money up front, with an uncertain total in the end.

Flat fee billing:

With flat fees, you know the amount that you will be spending.

With flat fees, you know the amount that you will be spending. You can either pay this amount up front before the work begins, or you can work out payment arrangements with the attorney over a period of months. Often, when there are filing fees and other up-front costs, these would need to be included in the original payment.

Equity or deferred compensation:

If you are starting a business venture or game development project, you may be able to find an attorney who will work for deferred compensation or equity in the company.

Money doesn’t always have to be a barrier to getting the legal services you need for your game development startup.

There are ethical considerations here, as sometimes the responsibilities of an attorney conflict with the desire to have a profitable business, so an attorney needs to be careful. However, if the business plan is sound and there seems to be an opportunity to be reimbursed for services on the back-end, such an arrangement could be good. This is particularly true when there is little money to pay for attorneys up front, even when much of the work needs to be done then.

As with the previous method, filing fees and costs will most likely need to be paid up front, regardless of the equity arrangement.

Money doesn’t always have to be a barrier to getting the legal services you need for your game development startup. If you have questions about payment arrangements or any other legal needs, contact a game lawyer to set up a free consultation.

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