When it comes to paying your solicitors fees, it can be hard to follow what exactly you are being charged for and how they have come to the figure presented to you. So we thought we’d put together a quick and easy to follow guide to solicitors fees – how they are worked out, what you are paying for and what makes them different. Below are some of what we think are the key factors in determining your legal fees.
1. Levels of Experience
What level of experience or seniority your solicitor is matters. If you have a partner or senior associate of a law firm doing your work, it will show in the price. Likewise, if you have a junior solicitor or paralegal doing the bulk of your work your fees will be significantly lower. Solicitors fees work on a type of grading system, whereby the more senior the solicitor, the higher the fees they can charge. Its worth noting though, that the majority of firms will provide a balance in this respect, whereby junior staff will complete the easier and usually more time consuming work and the senior staff will complete the more complicated work and make any important decisions.
2. Area of the country
Believe it or not, solicitors fees can vary quite a lot depending on what area of the country they practice. This naturally seems odd considering they should ultimately be doing the same work. This rule generally applies to London vs. the rest of the country. Instructing a solicitor in London is likely to set you back much more than other cities. One factor influencing this is the higher cost of living amongst other things.
3. Type of work
This is arguably the biggest factor when considering solicitors fees. The harder the work, the higher the costs. It makes sense that someone with a complex commercial issue with millions of pounds on the line, will require a higher degree of expertise and significantly more work, thus costing more. Compare this to the run of the mill personal injury claim that requires much less work and expertise to complete. Other factors to consider are contentious work vs non-contentious work, and specialist areas of law.
4. Complexity/ Length of Time
A lot of solicitors will quote with the common ‘how long is a piece of string’ when asked how much their fees will be, and in many instances, this is actually the best or only answer. Legal matters are often unique and vary greatly in complexity and what length of time they will need. If you have a legal matter that is particularly complicated, then you can expect your solicitors to spend a lot of time on it, thus costing you more. It goes without saying, that the longer a solicitor is required to spend on a piece of work, the higher the solicitors fees will be. Matters that are very complicated usually required more senior solicitors or solicitors with specialised expertise; this will come at a price.
4. Fixed Fee
For a number of legal services, solicitors fees will be fixed. This is common in legal work that can be easily quantified from the start such as conveyancing and small claims. A fixed fee is an upfront fee that is all inclusive and will remain the same. It is a set fee for a set piece of work. Fixed fees are great when available, you know what you are required to pay up front with no surprises. Sadly, they aren’t offered on everything and can still vary. Remember though, cheap isn’t always best.
Some solicitors will ask for a retainer. This is a lump sum of money that you will pay up front that your solicitor will have access to for fees and other expenses. This is comparable to a pay as you go phone, you top your retainer up and it depletes as more and more legal work is done. Its important not to mistake this as the only payment you will have to make, as its common for solicitors to request more money should the fees they are billing exceed the amount in your retainer.
6. No Win No Fee
We hear of ‘no win no fee’ all the time but what exactly does it mean. In simple terms, it means what it says, if you don’t win your case, you will not pay. So how does your solicitor get paid? Well they get paid from the losing side if you are successful. It is common for your solicitor to request that you take out an insurance policy, such as an ‘after event insurance’, to ensure that if by some chance you do lose, then your insurance policy will pay out instead of you. Its worth remembering that solicitors will only take cases on a no win no feee basis if they consider the prospects of winning to be much greater than the prospects of losing.
There are many factors that influence solicitors fees and at the end of the day most legal cases are unique and its hard to say out right what solicitors fees should be for you. But without a doubt, it is something you should discuss with you solicitor up front. The last thing you want is being hit with a legal bill you cant afford. Its also worth remembering that legal fees aren’t set, you have the room to negotiate fees and get the best deal for you. Like most things, shop around and compare whats on offer.