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Contingent Fees and Criminal Cases

NCJ Number
Columbia Law Review Volume: 93 Issue: 3 Dated: (April 1993) Pages: 595-638
P S Karlan
Date Published
44 pages
This article explores the ban on contingent fee arrangements in criminal cases that has remained a universal feature of standards of professional responsibility.
The first section traces the historical treatment of contingency fees and their acceptance in the civil context. The accepted explanations for the ban rely on assumptions about differences between civil and criminal proceedings, litigants, and lawyers that have little basis in reality. The second section introduces an alternative, more sophisticated model in which the distinctive characteristics of the client pool suggest both descriptive and normative explanations for the no-contingent fee regime. The final section identifies two classes of cases -- white collar defendants and their counsel, and cases involving appointed counsel -- in which certain forms of partially contingent fees might be particularly beneficial. 163 notes


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