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Types of legal fees - Law Fees

The amount that you spend on legal advice will depend on several factors, including the amount of working hours the solicitor spends on your problem; the solicitor's ability and experience, their reputation in their particular field; the novelty and difficulty of the case; the results obtained; and costs involved. There will be other factors such as the solicitor's overhead expenses (rent, utilities, office equipment, computers, etc.) that may affect the fee charged.
There are several common types of fee arrangements used by solicitors:

  • Initial first meeting: The solicitor may charge a fixed rate or an hourly rate for your first meeting. Sometimes they may offer the first half hour for free. This is when you both determine whether the solicitor can assist you. Be sure to check whether you will be charged for this initial meeting.
  • Fixed Fees: Solicitors will sometimes offer to charge a fixed fee. A fixed fee is only usually offered if your case is a relatively simple one or routine such as a will or an uncontested divorce.
  • Hourly Rate: The solicitor will charge you for each hour (or portion of an hour) that the solicitor works on your case. Thus, for example, if the solicitor's fee is £150 per hour and the solicitor works 5 hours, the fee will be £750. This is the most typical fee arrangement. Some solicitors charge different fees for different types of work (legal research versus a court appearance). In addition, solicitors working in large firms typically have different fee scales with more senior members charging higher fees than young associates or paralegals.
  • Conditional Fee Agreements ('CFA' or 'no win no fee'): Solicitors will sometimes agree to work on your case on a 'no win no fee' basis. If this is the case you will need to enter what is called a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) with the solicitor. The main reason for doing so is that the solicitor will agree to defer his payment until the outcome of the matter (at trial or if the matter is settled). Provided the case is won, the solicitor will have his costs reimbursed by the losing side (as the loser in litigation must usually pay the winner's legal costs). If, on the other hand, you do not win your case, you do not have to pay your solicitor's fees. To avoid having to pay the other side's costs if you do lose the case, you will usually have been advised to take out ('after the event') insurance which will cover the other side's legal costs. Whether a solicitor is prepared to take on your case on a 'no win no fee' basis will depend on how confident they are that they will win the case but also whether they can afford to defer payment until the outcome of the case (which can be a long time). Some solicitors may refuse to take on the case on this basis but you may find another firm that will be willing to do so.
  • Payment on Account of Costs (sometimes called a 'retainer fee'): Here the solicitor is paid a set fee upfront, usually based on the solicitor's estimate of how much initial work will cost (based on the hourly rate and work to be carried out) . The retainer is a "payment on account" against which future costs are billed. The retainer is placed in a designated client account and the cost of your solicitor's legal advice is then deducted from that account as and when they accrue. You should always be sure to have the solicitor explain how this works in detail.

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