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Personal loans can be a feasible option to fund legal expenses such as attorney retainer fees. Many lawyers will not begin working a case until the client deposits money into an escrow account.

Legal settlement cash advances are the preferred alternative when lawyers work on a contingency basis. With a contingency arrangement, the attorney charges nothing upfront but takes a portion of the proceeds after winning a personal injury lawsuit.

Both alternatives can provide money to help pay your bills during a difficult time. However, the qualifying process is very different. Personal loans rely on the creditworthiness of the borrower, while settlement advances rely on the merits of the case.

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Loans for Attorney Retainer Fees

Personal loans are a viable option to finance attorney retainer fees. A retainer fee is money paid in advance before the lawyer performs any legal services. Some attorneys calculate retainer fees by multiplying their hourly rate by the number of hours projected to complete your case.

Start a personal loan request here. (Affiliate Link) Provide information about your income and employment along with your bank account and routing number to increase eligibility odds. If approved, use the money to fund your legal retainer fees for a DUI, immigration, divorce, child custody, adoption, or criminal defense case.

Divorce Lawyer

Taking out an online personal loan to fund legal fees during a divorce entails special considerations. Finances usually deteriorate when a family breaks apart, making on-time repayment difficult after the dust settles. Staying together and working through marital issues is often much better.

  • Expenses rise
    • The couple lives in two homes instead of one
    • Divorce lawyer charges pile up quickly
  • Income drops
    • Change in childcare responsibilities
    • Emotional stress hampers work productivity

If possible, each spouse should borrow in his or her name based on individual income rather than household earnings. Separate obligations avoid complicating an already messy situation.

Non-working spouses (usually the woman) often find it difficult to borrow without an income source. She may need to qualify based on the expected divorce settlement. In this scenario, use the projected alimony and child support payments to find an affordable monthly payment amount.

Child Custody

Getting personal loans to finance child custody cases is even more heartbreaking. Emotions run high when two parents fight in court over child custody and visitation rights. It is far better to settle the issues amicably than to run up legal fees fighting over a child. However, human nature makes this rare.

Single parent loan qualifications are usually poor on the two most important criteria.

  • Single incomes are often lowest for the custodial parent who has less time for work
  • Low credit scores are typical as many solo parents live in poverty

Grants for child custody legal fees are hard to find. Exhaust all avenues for aid before borrowing money and trapping yourself in a cycle of debt. Victims of domestic violence often find local agencies willing to help.


Taking out a personal loan to cover the legal fees for child adoption can address only a portion of your family’s financial shortfall. The average cost to adopt a child in the United States exceeds the amount most lenders will approve – even for the best-qualified couples.

Consider these average cost figures totaling almost $40,000.[1]

  • Adoption agency expenses: $17,000
  • Legal charges: $13,000
  • Birth mother expenses: $5,600
  • Advertising & networking: $4,000

Adoptive parents may be able to borrow up to $35,000 of these expenses if they have a pristine credit history and sufficient income to make the monthly payments.

These resources can help raise money or reduce costs.

  • Foster care adoptions are less expensive
  • Christian organizations offer interest-free adoption loan programs
  • The adoption tax credit reduces first-year expenses
  • Non-profits offer adoption grants after completing home study programs

Criminal Defense

Pursuing a personal loan to pay attorney retainer fees for criminal defense should be a last resort. People charged with a felony face added obstacles because of the possible jail time. Lenders will shy away from borrowers with a criminal record and or anyone without an income because they are behind bars.

Also, other factors could affect how you finance a criminal defense.

  • Bail guarantors may issue a surety bond that grants a defendant freedom before a court appearance. A bail bond transaction could appear on your credit report, which hurts your score.
  • Court-appointed public defenders work at the expense of the local government. However, you must show indigency, which is based on income and the severity of the crime.

Borrowing money could make sense when you need to hire a top criminal defense lawyer to keep you out of jail or allow you to keep your license after driving under the influence (DUI).

Lawsuit Settlement Advance Loans

People involved in personal injury cases can take out lawsuit settlement loans that advance cash flow. Financial hardship is widespread after a serious accident or injury. The extra medical bills, combined with a loss of income, making it very difficult to pay regular bills such as food, rent, clothing, and transportation.

However, litigation financing does not consider the borrowing qualifications of the claimant. Therefore, cash advances can accelerate personal injury money before and after the case closes – regardless of your credit history, income, and job status.

Pre-Settlement Funding

Pre-settlement funding of personal injury lawsuits advances cash to plaintiffs. Having a large sum of money before your case closes helps your stay current on your bills while the wheels of justice turn (often very slowly).

Pre-settlement lawsuit financing companies consider three main factors when making a lending decision. Notice that the borrowing credentials of the claimant are not on the list.

  1. The probability that a judge or jury will rule in their favor
  2. The length of time needed to reach a decision or agreement
  3. The size of damages at stake in the case

No recourse funding allows the recipient to keep the money regardless of the outcome of the litigation. Therefore, keep this in mind as you evaluate the borrowing costs of this alternative. The finance company must factor in the lost cases when deciding the amount to lend in advance of an uncertain outcome – since they cannot get the money back.

Worker’s Compensation

Pre-settlement loans for Worker’s Compensation cases can help people who were injured on-the-job. Most states require employers to carry Worker’ compensation insurance. Therefore, the defendant is often a well-funded insurance company experienced in fighting legal battles.

Claimants could potentially borrow against any of these future benefits.

Auto Accidents

Pre-settlement loans for auto accidents can help drivers, passengers, and pedestrians injured by a motor vehicle. Again, most states require drivers to carry a minimum level of auto insurance. Many people will take higher levels of protection, and some could have an umbrella policy as well.

Therefore, the defendant will also be an insurance company that could have large amounts of money at risk – especially in the event of any fatalities. Expect a vigorous legal defense for some of these potential claims.

Without Lawyer

Getting a pre-settlement loan on your personal injury case without a lawyer will prove very difficult. Lawsuit lending companies rarely approve pro se (without an attorney) plaintiffs for a variety of reasons.

  • The lawsuit company is investing in the outcome of the case and requires trained, licensed legal representation
  • Licensed attorneys take personal injury cases on a contingency basis, lending credence to the viability of the case
  • Lawyers are more efficient at providing the legal documents needed to evaluate the situation than a pro se plaintiff

Plaintiffs without an attorney could qualify for personal loans before reaching an agreement – if they have sufficient income and work history to support repayment. However, people able to work and earn an income may not have a strong personal injury case. Perhaps family members could borrow the money on their behalf.

Structured Settlements

Structured settlement loans allow the plaintiff to sell a portion of the annuity stream to a finance company after the case closes. Most lawsuit defendants agree to make restitution from a personal injury, medical malpractice, or wrongful death case with an annuity rather than a large upfront sum. An annuity provides a steady stream of payments over time.

Structured settlement loans advance a portion of the cash from the annuity. Having a more substantial sum of money right away can help claimants retire debts such as medical bills, and other obligations that piled up while the lawsuit dragged on in court.

Structured settlement financing does not rely on the credit qualifications of the borrower. The purchasing company lends money based on the ability of the defendant to fund each periodic payment. Therefore, there is no need to worry about having a bad credit history, being unemployed, or receiving social security disability benefits.

Footnoted Sources:

[1] American Adoptions – Cost