One huge obstacle for the public even seeking advice from lawyers is the fear of lawyers fees. It is not uncommon for some bad apples to overcharge the public to perform simple legal services. As with other services, legal fees can be negotiated (unless you are buying property, of which, fees are fixed). Here are some pointers that could be of assistance when negotiating with your lawyers:-
1. Flat or Hourly Rate
Some lawyers charge a flat rate (u pay X amount to complete the service, regardless how long it takes) or an hourly rate (u pay Y amount for every hour that the lawyer takes to perform the service).
2. Agree Fees Before Starting Work
This depends on what services you use. Some can be agreed to the exact figure (review & drafting of agreements etc), some would be a range (court work etc). Talk it out. Ask for an estimate. If the lawyer can’t give an exact figure (which sometimes is impossible, depending on the service), at least get a range of the estimated fees.
3. Bundled Service or Piece Meal
Bundled services is where the lawyers service include several service for a fee. Piece meal services is where the lawyer breaks up the services individually. Think of your bundled services like your fast food value meal (you get a burger, drinks and fries). Piece meal is when you buy ala carte. Just like you value meal, find out if you really want that fries and soft drink. Do you only really want just the burger? 🙂
4. Lump Sum or Installments
Find out if you need to pay the fees all at once. Some lawyers accept installment payments.
This are actual out of pocket expenses incurred by your lawyers. You may also request an estimate for this, although it would be extremely difficult to given you an exact figure for this.
6. Are there Alternatives?
This one is for the particular service provided (which will determine the amount of fees payable). Ask if there are alternatives to what the lawyer is proposing to do? Eg/. Before going to Court, is there room for out of court settlement, mediation etc. Your lawyers fees will vary depending on the services performed, so find out if there are alternatives. Most important is that you make an informed decision.
7. What can cause the Fees to Vary
Some services (drafting agreements etc) won’t vary as much as some other services (litigation etc). This is due to the nature of the service. Find this out from your lawyer. You may also request your lawyer to inform you should the fees pass a certain threshold so that you are informed at all times of the fees that you have to incur.
The above are just a guide. Some lawyers won’t agree to this; some may have better guidelines. Talk it out with your lawyers.