That depends greatly on the type of case. For personal injury litigation the attorney's usually work on a contingency basis. However if you were filing suit for something like a hostile work environment, you would likely need a retainer. That would depend on the Attorney. If you are the one a suit is being filed against, the lawyers hourly rate is what you need to be concerned with. That also depends on the type of case, and the region of the country. Any decent lawyer in the NY area is a minimum of 400 per hour. And that is the low end. Plus you have to pay the hourly rate for is staff and the work they do.