To gain a better understanding of what a breach of contract is, it can be helpful to know what a contract is first. In general, a contract can be defined as a legally binding agreement made between parties that acknowledges the rights and duties governing their arrangement. Contracts can either be formed through a writing or created by an oral agreement. 

A breach of contract is said to have occurred when a party to a contract fails to uphold their end of the agreement. The terms of a contract are meant to provide the parties with guidance on how to fulfill their obligations. When a party does not do what the contract requires of them, then the non-breaching party is allowed to take legal action and can sue them in court. 

A breach of contract can either be a minor or material breach. Material breaches are the more serious of the two and are thus more likely to end up in court. Some common examples of breaches include:

  • When one or both parties fail to perform their obligations at all; 
  • When one party fails to fulfill their legal duties within the time period agreed to in the terms of the contract; 
  • When one or both parties fails to sign the contract or skips one of the other requirements necessary to form a valid contract; and/or 
  • When one party carries out their duties, but not in the manner specified in the contract.

A court will examine whether a particular breach is minor or material. This distinction will help the court to determine the amount and type of damages that the breaching party should have to pay to the non-breaching party.  

How Much Does a Breach of Contract Lawyer Cost?

The costs associated with filing a breach of contract lawsuit will depend on many factors. One factor that can significantly affect costs is based on what is provided in the terms of the actual contract itself. For instance, some contracts contain clauses that state when a breaching party will be liable for paying the cost of the non-breaching party’s legal fees. Such clauses will usually specify various situations that may trigger this result. 

Another factor that can affect breach of contract costs are contract attorney billing rates. Contract attorneys may handle a number of different tasks, such as drafting and reviewing contracts, negotiating the terms of a contract, and providing representation on behalf of their clients in court. The rate at which a contract attorney bills can vary considerably and may be based on the types of legal tasks they are doing for the client. 

For example, reviewing the terms of a contract will normally cost less than what a client will have to pay if they are being sued for breach of contract and have to appear in court. This will also depend on how the attorney charges (e.g., do they bill by the hour or have a flat fee rate?). 

If a contract attorney bills by the hour and spends a long time preparing a breach of contract case for trial, then the total cost will be much more than if they use a flat fee rate, regardless of how much time they spend on the matter.

Additionally, if a case settles before it goes to trial, this will have an effect on how much a lawyer may cost as well. Also, cost of filing fees is another factor to take into consideration. Filing fees can vary by jurisdiction, the type of case, and even by court. These may be factored into a lawyer’s final bill. 

What Other Factors Cause the Costs of a Lawyer to Vary?

Some other factors that can affect breach of contract lawyer fees may include: 

  • The legal procedure: In general, the cost of an attorney will typically increase when they are hired to litigate a matter (e.g., when they have to prepare and present a case before the court). Thus, alternative methods, such as mediation, arbitration, or settlement negotiations, will usually cost less than when hiring an attorney for a trial. Additionally, these other methods may reduce costs due to the time involved.
    • For instance, mediations are often the quickest way to resolve a breach of contract dispute. Therefore, if a lawyer charges by the hour and the issue can be resolved in a matter of months in mediation sessions as opposed to the years it could take to resolve in a trial, then the lawyer’s rates will clearly be lower for mediation.  
  • The type of contract breach: There are several types of contract breaches, including minor, material, anticipatory, and fundamental breaches. Each type of breach can affect how much an attorney receives in legal fees. For matters that concern a minor or partial breach, how it is resolved will not change the terms or obligations of a contract. Thus, a plaintiff will only be able to sue for actual damages, and not for performance damages. 
    • In contrast, a material breach is considered a substantial breach, which means it will preclude the contract from being fulfilled. Therefore, a plaintiff will be able to sue for a larger amount of damages than what they could if it was only a minor or partial breach. As for a fundamental breach, this kind will permit a plaintiff to sue for damages and to terminate the existing contract.
    • Finally, an anticipatory breach or anticipatory repudiation, occurs when a breaching party refuses to perform their legal duties before the contract becomes due. For instance, if a worker stops going to work, then their employer might anticipate that they are going to breach their employment contract. 
    • In the above scenario, the employer can then sue the breaching party (i.e., the worker) either before or after the worker breaches the employment contract
  • The remedies for breach of contract: A remedy is a type of legal award that is issued to a plaintiff in order to make them whole again (i.e., their situation before they signed the contract). Some common examples of remedies may include restitution, specific performance, multiple kinds of monetary damages, and cancellation or rescission of the contract. 
    • In some cases, a portion of those remedies (usually monetary damages) go to the attorney to pay their fees (e.g., contingency fees). 
  • The location of the matter: The location of where the breach of contract case or negotiation takes place can also affect the cost of a lawyer. This is because some states have statutes that automatically award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party. For example, a party who breaches a contract in Texas and loses their case will be required to pay the attorney fees of the non-breaching party in accordance with Texas state law.
    • Thus depending on the state and the outcome of a case, an individual may not have to pay their lawyer at all or may only need to pay a minimal amount. 

Should I Talk to a Lawyer About My Breach of Contract Case?

Not every breach of contract matter requires the assistance of an attorney or the intervention of a court. However, if the contract involves something that is of great value, such as the purchase or sale of a corporation, then you should strongly consider contacting a local contract lawyer for further legal guidance. 

An experienced contract lawyer can assist you in drafting, editing, reviewing, and negotiating the terms of your contract. This can help to minimize the risks involved when entering a contract and may potentially prevent a legal dispute from arising over the terms of the contract in the future. 

In addition, if you are being sued or want to sue for breach of contract, a contract lawyer can help you prepare and file your case. Your lawyer will also be able to determine whether any defenses or remedies are available, predict the possible outcomes of your case, and provide representation in court or during settlement negotiations.