Most often than not when a client walked into a lawyer’s office he would first of all ask the lawyer how much he should pay the lawyer for a certain work to be done even without first giving an opportunity for the lawyer to assess the legal problem the client was facing. A lawyer may not be able to off-hand quote a fee without a proper understanding of the legal problem that the client is facing. Therefore, a lawyer will not be able to quote a proper fee when client ask by phone. The best thing is to see the lawyer personally. Before quoting a fee for a particular work asked by the client the lawyer has to consider a number of factors such as:
- The nature of legal problem the client is facing, whether it is about debt matters, personal injury claims, land disputes, hire –purchase, criminal charges etc.,
- The length of time needed to resolve the legal problem faced by the client;
- Whether there is a need to file legal proceedings, defence and or counterclaim in court;
- The importance of the case to the client;
- The complexity or novelty of the legal matter under consideration.
How much you as client willing to spend?
If the case involves a court fight, the lawyer may need to know how much the client would be willing to spend on him to take up the case. If the lawyer feels that the client may not be able to pay an upfront fee or will not be able to continue paying the lawyer his fees, the lawyer may just decline to take up the case. The rule is that good representation comes with good fee, but, the fee should not be unreasonable and for good representation the seniority, skill, the operating costs, location of practice and reputation of the lawyer handling similar cases in the past need to be taken into consideration in the negotiations between the client and the lawyer.
When shopping for lawyers, do not be embarrassed to ask the lawyer how the fees need to be billed and you may need to ask detailed questions. If the lawyer is not willing to discuss with you his fees and how he should bill you, this either shows that the lawyer is not willing to take up your case of he lacks the confidence to do a good job for you.
What Are The Typical Fee Arrangement?
The Advocates’ Remuneration Rules 1988 provides for fees lawyers in the state can charge for certain work done. Lawyers are not allowed to charge below the scale and if this is discovered the lawyer can be barred from practice by the court. However, for litigations or contentious matters the following typical arrangements between lawyers and their clients can be employed:-
Hourly rate is a common arrangement in present practice and under this arrangement the lawyer gets paid an agreed-upon hourly rate for the hours the lawyer worked on his client’s case or until the matter is resolved. Only an experienced lawyer can tell a client the number of hours the lawyer would likely to spend on the case and this will then give the client the rough estimate the client need to spend on the lawyer handling the case.
Flat Fees are what lawyers typically charge for simple and well-defined cases. Examples of these flat fee matters include the preparation of wills, uncontested divorce, drafting of agreements, filing simple bankruptcy matters. You may need to know that the flat fee does not include expenses such as stamp duties, filing fees, search fees, fees for Commissioner For Oaths.
Retainer arrangements can take different forms and in some cases a retainer is a non-refundable fee paid for the privilege of retaining a lawyer with regard whether or not services are rendered. This type of arrangement normally is found in high profile cases or when client retains a high profile lawyer. A retainer can also be money advanced against future fees and costs which may or may not be refundable if not all to be used. Another type of retainer is where a lawyer is retained on monthly or yearly basis to give legal advice to client on a specific matter or to attend board meetings of companies of client regardless of how much time the lawyer will spend on the work or representation.
Contingent Fee is a fee arrangement where lawyers get a cut say 30% as fee the sum of money recovered or payable to client under judgment or settlement. However, contingency fees are not allowed in West Malaysia. In certain jurisdictions, contingency fees are allowed, but, subject to reasonableness of the fees. In Sarawak, the fees for contentious fees are guided by the 16th Schedule of the Advocates’ Remunerations Rule 1988.
What about Expenses and Court Costs?
Client may need to discuss these with the lawyer of any anticipated costs so as to avoid unpleasant surprises. Client may need to scrutinize court fees, filing fees, delivery charges and charges for affidavits.
Get a Fee Agreement
To prevent any confusion or misunderstanding client and lawyer should get the fee agreement in writing. If the lawyer is unprepared to commit his fee in writing client should better not engage him. Client may want to impose a ceiling on the fee and also want the lawyer to get client’s approval before proceeding beyond a certain amount of legal cost. If no fee agreement in writing how client will be able to dispute fee when a bill is sent to client’s office?
Interests on Issued Bill
Under the Advocates’ Remuneration Rules 1988 once a bill is issued it carries 14% interest per annum upon the expiration of one month. Clients are therefore advised to pay their lawyers’ fees promptly because the interest is very high.
If you are contemplating to hire a legal service in solving your legal problem, feel free to drop us a visit to discuss your legal issue and ask for a quotation of legal fees.