Contingent fees represent a business arrangement whereby the consideration for services is based on an outcome rather than on the amount or type of work performed. American lawyers have long worked on contingent fees, charging nothing (except for direct costs) unless they win or receive a favorable settlement-in which case the fee will usually be a percentage of the amount recovered. The ethical basis for contingent fees in the law is that access to justice is often urgent and should not be denied or delayed while a person who has suffered a wrong searches for financing to pay a lawyer's fee. Contingent fees for surveying or engineering services are more controversial.
Most surveyors regard contingent fees with distrust. More than one author has stated that contingent fees in surveys often are unethical. "One's professional judgment could certainly be clouded when working under this sort of arrangement. I find it too much the appearance of a conflict of interest and often a completely unethical arrangement. My advice: avoid shady deals involving contingencies," wrote D.J. Mouland in his book Ethics for the Professional Surveyor, a Collection of Thoughts.