If you use a lawyer he or she should talk to you about the cost of their services. But you should also understand their charges. As a consumer, you have the right to expect your lawyer to be clear about how much they are likely to charge you, and for the final bill to be comprehensible and be in the range you anticipated. Legal costs can be complicated and the end cost can depend on such things as type of service, individual details of the case, and how events develop. The expertise and experience of the solicitor involved are also instrumental.
To help you, we have prepared answers to some frequently asked questions about charges :
1. Will I be charged for my initial consultation ?
Finding a lawyer who is right for you and the service you need is very important. Some solicitors do charge for an initial consultation but should tell you this before hand and explain any condition. Here at Mitchells Roberton for new clients to the firm we do not charge for the first 30 minutes of the first consultation.
2. How do solicitors cost their services ?
This is quite a vexed question as new clients may phone for a quote but are shopping around and get confused when two solicitors provide very different estimates for the same service. Understanding why the quotes may be so divergent can help you make the right decision. One lawyer may be more experienced or an expert in the area of law your case involves .If you have a complex case perhaps you would wish to instruct the expert, as at the end of the day that expert could be able to achieve the desired outcome, meaning you may have to pay less in the long run. However, if the matter is fairly straightforward you may want to choose the cheaper option. We are always prepared to discuss our costs in detail and explain the level of service you will receive for that fee and from whom.
3. Can you tell me more about the way you charge ?
Lawyers have different ways of charging and their charging methods may vary with the service. For example we have a fixed fee for writing a will or making a Power of Attorney. However ,there may be an hourly rate for the administration of the estate of a deceased person. We have a duty to confirm the costs we will be charging in a client care letter which is sent to each new client when they have instructed us.
4. What is a fixed fee and what does it cover? Will I be charged for any other costs ?
The term “fixed fee” can be used in different ways. It can be easy to assume that it covers all costs for the service you need but it may also refer to only the lawyer’s fee. For example, a fixed fee in a property case may or may not include charges relating to searches , stamp duty registration dues or VAT. On every occasion we will tell you what the whole transaction will cost including all outlays so that you are certain there are no hidden costs.
5. You charge an hourly rate but I would like an estimate for the cost of the whole service. What will my final bill look like?
If your lawyer charges an hourly rate they should still be able to give you a rough estimate of how much the overall service will be. Sometimes it may be hard to predict but having a range of costs might be helpful. You can ask your lawyer to add a limit to your spend so that he or she has to check with you that you are happy to continue if the spend approaches the agreed threshold. We are always happy to answer any questions and can give an estimate of the likely number of hours we expect the transaction to take and what might cause it to change and how likely this is.
6. Could my costs change ? How will you let me know ?
There may be circumstances where costs do change such as where new information or developments make a case or a transaction more difficult .For example, in a divorce case a lot depends on the other party’s co operation to resolve matters quickly and there may be a breakdown of communication further down the line preventing an amicable solution. Even if there is a fixed fee, if a case becomes complicated the fixed fee arrangement may change. We will advise you of this, as and when the fee is likely to vary from what is expected.
7. When will I receive my bill and how long will I have to pay ?
We will always give you clear information about our billing procedure and offer a reasonable time for you to make payments which is 28 days from the date of issue of the fee. We are not obliged to offer payment options but may be willing to negotiate in individual circumstances. We would expect all third party outlays to be paid at the time the searches or court dues are going to be incurred.
8. What happens if I disagree with the amount I have been charged?
Every law firm including our own have a complaints handling system in place. You can ask for the fee to be audited independently by the Auditor of Court or some other independent assessor.
We place great importance on the value of the good service we offer and will happily answer any cost related questions you may have.