Understanding legal costs

Understanding legal costs

As a client, you have the right to expect your lawyer to be clear about how much they are likely to charge you, and for the final bill to be clearly explained and in the range you expected. A lawyer who values good service will happily answer your questions about legal costs.

To help you, we have formulated 9 questions to ask your lawyer about the legal costs they will charge:

Will I be charged for the first consultation?

Finding the lawyer who is right for you and the service you need is important. A consultation by phone, face-to-face, letter or online can help you make your decision. A lawyer can charge you for a consultation, but they should tell you before you book and explain any conditions.

How do you charge for your service?

This question can help you shop around to get best value for money. Two lawyers may provide very different estimates for the same service. Experience and skill are just two reasons why legal costs may differ.

Lawyers have different ways of charging, and their charging method may also vary according to the service. For example, they may offer a fixed fee for one type of service, but an hourly rate for another. Find out what charging method the lawyer will use and ask them to explain it to you in detail.

What does a “fixed fee” cover?

The term ‘fixed fee’ can be used in different ways. It can be easy to assume that it covers all legal costs for the service you need. In some cases that may be true, but it may also just refer to the lawyer’s fees and not disbursements like searches.

How much will this cost me?

If your lawyer charges an hourly rate, they should give you an estimate of how much the overall service will be. This should compare reasonably with your final bill.

Sometimes it can be hard to predict how much it will all cost, but your lawyer should be able to give you a range of legal costs. The important thing is to have an estimate of how much the total bill could be.

You are entitled to ask the lawyer to set a limit on your legal costs. This means your lawyer must check that you are happy to continue if the spend approaches the agreed threshold. Setting a limit can help you make sure you do not spend more than you can afford.

Could my cost change and how will you let me know if they do?

There may be circumstances where costs do change. This is most likely if new information or developments make a case more difficult. If your legal costs look like they are changing, ask your lawyer about it. In general, your lawyer should tell you as soon as they are aware of any changes, but you do not have to wait to ask for an explanation.

Remember, you always have options, even in the middle of a legal transaction. If there is a big increase in the costs of using a lawyer;  your lawyer should tell you about them and let you know what your options are.

Are there any extra charges?

This really is a catch-all question to help you budget for your service. You are basically asking your lawyer if they have given you all the information, they reasonably can to make sure there are no nasty surprises in the future.

Can I get help with the cost of my legal fees?

A lawyer should always talk to you about how the service will be paid for and discuss options such as insurance or a third party that might help cover your legal costs. 

When will I be billed and how long will I have to pay? 

A lawyer should give you clear information on their billing process and offer reasonable time for you to make payments. They should also let you know if there are penalty charges if you do not pay on time. You may be asked to pay some money at the start either to cover certain expenses or as an advance payment of fees.

What happens if I disagree with the amount I have been charged?

Your lawyer should tell you from the start their approach to resolving billing disagreements. You should not be charged by a lawyer for looking at your complaint – it is very poor service if they do. 

For an interesting article “Who bears the legal costs which arise from proceedings in civil or commercial matters?”, have a look at this article from Expats Magazine: https://expatsmagazine.org/legal-fees-in-a-civil-or-commercial-spanish-court-proceeding/

For alternatives to legal billing, visit our article at https://buenosabogados.es/alternatives-to-legal-hourly-billing/

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