Is your lawyer billing you too much?
Understandably, one of the main concerns people have in engaging a lawyer revolves around cost. When you engage a lawyer they have obligations they must follow and one of the most important documents you will receive is called a “cost agreement”.
Today lawyers are heavily regulated, and if they are following the appropriate regulations, you as a client should have the following from your lawyer in the form of a written document, known as a “cost agreement” which sets out the following, at a minimum:
- The scope of work the lawyer has been engaged to undertake. This should be more than just words like “negotiate a settlement”, and include an outline of the specific dispute that needs to be resolved, what processes will be used to negotiate and whether court will or may be involved.
- What is not included in the scope of work – this is important to ensure you know that although you have a lawyer to undertake work for you, the work they are doing is limited to only the area of law and scope you have agreed upon.
- The estimate of fees, and if this estimate is subject to any contingencies or changes of circumstances, what those are and when the estimate might need to be reviewed.
- How fees are charged – that is, if you are paying on a time basis, or if the work is being charged for items of work or completion of steps, or for a fixed fee, or as otherwise agreed.
If you have a lawyer, but you do not have a document that sets out the above items (at a minimum) in a clear way, you are entitled to seek clarification. You should initially take this up with your lawyer and if you are not satisfied after addressing it with your lawyer, you can get a second opinion or contact the Queensland Law Society for further help.
How can you minimise your legal costs?
It is important to know that generally, all the work your lawyer does for you will be chargeable, including phone calls with your lawyer or any employee in their office, drafting, sending, or perusing email or postal correspondence sent and received, and preparing or reviewing various documents or schedules. Different types of work may result in different fees. It is important that you carefully consider how your lawyer charges, and if you might get better value for money when communicating with your lawyer.
At Catton & Tondelstrand Lawyers work hard to ensure our clients are informed about every aspect of their family law case, including their fee and cost position, every step of the way.