How much will it cost me to hire a lawyer?
The cost of having a lawyer represent you should be discussed at the first meeting. The lawyer’s fees should be fair and reasonable and will be based on a number of factors:
- the lawyer’s experience and skill;
- the difficulty of the matter;
- the time and effort it takes to complete the work;
- the standard rate charged by other lawyers of equal standing in like matters and circumstances.
Lawyers use various types of fees for service. These include:
- fixed or flat fee – a fee that is charged for a certain type of legal work such as a will or a real estate transaction.
- hourly fee – the rate a lawyer charges for services on an hourly basis. The rates vary depending on the lawyer and the nature of the work involved. You will be charged according to the number of hours the lawyer spends on your legal issue.
- retainer fee – a deposit made in advance to cover the early costs; it is payment towards your final bill. As the work progresses you may be required to pay another retainer to cover on-going costs.
- contingency fee – you will not be charged a fee until your case is settled; the lawyer will take a percentage of the settlement money you receive. You may be required to pay for disbursements prior to settlement.
Find out from the lawyer:
- the types of fees the lawyer will charge;
- the basis for the lawyer’s charges;
- an estimate, in writing, of the cost to conclude your legal issue, including costs in addition to legal fees;
- if another lawyer or other professional will be involved in resolving your issue and how much they charge;
- the cost of the retainer if one is required;
- what the lawyer’s percentage will be if services are provided under a contingency fee arrangement;
- the likelihood of anything happening that may increase the cost;
- how you will be informed if your cost is likely to increase due to unusual or unforeseen circumstances so that you can make an informed decision;
- the lawyer’s billing schedule and when you are expected to pay;
- your options for payment of fees and other costs;
- the cost of interest charges on overdue accounts;
- suggestions for keeping your costs down.
The lawyer will not be able to give you an exact cost for legal services at the first meeting, but the lawyer should be able to provide an approximate amount, based on the cost of concluding matters similar to yours. Be prepared for additional costs as the work proceeds on your matter.
Sometimes a lawyer will give you a Statement of Account while your matter is on-going. You may be expected to pay upon receipt of the statement. On other occasions, the lawyer will wait until your matter is concluded before billing you. You should discuss the bill with the lawyer, including any concerns you have about the amount of the bill.
What should I do if I feel my lawyer’s fees are too high?
The lawyer’s bill should show the services provided, who did the work and the cost associated with the service. It should also show the cost of disbursements, which are expenses paid by the lawyer while working on your behalf; you will be expected to reimburse the lawyer for these expenses.
If you think the amount of the bill is unreasonable or you do not understand some items on the bill, ask the lawyer to explain the charges. If you are not able to come to an agreement with your lawyer on the amount you owe you may have your account taxed. This is the term used in Newfoundland and Labrador for having your bill reviewed by a Taxing Master who will determine if the charges are fair and reasonable. You should discuss the bill with your lawyer very soon after receiving it. It is possible that your lawyer will decide to have the bill taxed if the dispute over the amount of the bill cannot be resolved.