The In's and Out's of Legal Fees
Many people are shy about asking a lawyer how much the service will cost. Don't be. A lawyer should tell you or warn you even if you don't ask. Its in everyone's interest to have everything about the billing process as clear as possible from the beginning.
In straight forward matters, your lawyer should be able to give you a good estimate of how much it will cost. This is not possible when the lawyer isn't sure how much will be involved.
Once you decide to hire a lawyer, many times you will be asked for a retainer a sum of money to be paid up front. (The word retainer has many meanings: It can also refer to an initial letter or document which gives the lawyer the authority to act on your behalf.)
Traditionally, money paid as a retainer only ensured that the lawyer was acting on your behalf. It was in addition to the rest of the bill. Nowadays, this sort of retainer is unusual. If a lawyer wants a retainer of this type, it must be made very clear to the client.
Your legal bill will consist of two parts: Disbursements and the lawyers fee. Disbursements are actual expenses paid by the lawyer on your behalf. They include the costs of getting certain certificates, long distance charges, photocopying charges, medical reports and records, etc.
To calculate the lawyers fee portion of a bill, some lawyers have an hourly rate. But your bill may not be an exact reflection of the number of hours multiplied by the hourly rate. Sometimes it is more. Sometimes believe it or not it is less.
Besides the numbers of hours spent on a file, many lawyers consider other factors, such as results obtained on the clients behalf, the difficulty of the legal issues involved and the skills required, the amount of money involved in the matter, and the seriousness or importance of the matter.
If you receive a lawyers bill that you think is too high, you can have it assessed at the Court Office. An Assessment Officer will listen to both sides of the story and then decide if the bill is too high. If you ask in advance about the costs, however, this should seldom become necessary.