As an attorney in our litigation group, this is a question that we hear practically every day. And, it’s a question that’s often asked at inception of representation and is especially relevant in the context of filing a lawsuit. At its core, the question revolves around this concept: “Will I be able to recover the attorneys’ fees I am about to spend from the party I am suing (so that I will not have a net loss at the end of the case)?”
The answer which we are constrained to give is generally this: In Pennsylvania, parties are responsible for paying their own lawyers, unless there is a contract where the parties have agreed that counsel fees can be claimed; or, a statute authorizes a claim for counsel fees as part of a party’s case. In other words, each party is generally required to pay their own lawyer for any and all fees and costs. In the event a contract or a statute gives rise to the ability to claim counsel fees, there remains the uncertainty that there are no guarantees that the fees will actually be realized or awarded by a Judge once the lawsuit is concluded.
Moreover, the courts keep a close eye on claims for attorney’s fees from another party. They closely examine the amount of time billed, the hourly rate in play (considering the attorney’s level of experience) and in numerous other respects.
In the end, the general rule is that each party will be responsible for their own counsel fees and costs. That rule can be altered by contract or by statute (if one so applies to the case at hand). In addition, conduct during a lawsuit can also give rise to claims for counsel fees—but again—nothing is guaranteed or “automatic” when it comes to litigation.