Solicitors are not renowned for being inexpensive, but as with most things in life, you get what you pay for. Considering the damage that can result from poor handling of legal issues, it could be wise to pay for a quality service, rather than take a risk by using the cheapest solicitor you can find.
However, there will always be solicitors and law firms who represent better value than others. It is worth considering a number of different possibilities.
The cost of instructing a solicitor will also depend on the nature of your case and the complexity of the legal issues involved. For example, writing a Will would generally be a quite straightforward routine task for some solicitors, and so they may have a set fee for writing a Will. A more complex and atypical Will could require more time and work than usual, and will likely result in additional costs being charged.
Fixed rate vs. Hourly rate
Some solicitors will charge their clients a fixed fee, quoting the cost of handling the entire case at the beginning, and this amount will not be incremented.
Other solicitors, however, will calculate the cost to the client based on the number of hours of work they have put in. With these operators, it is sometimes possible to negotiate a spending limit, so that costs do not balloon out of control.
Regardless of whichever method applies to the solicitor that you use, your solicitor should give an outline of the costs before proceeding. If this is not forthcoming, you should request one.
The solicitor’s bill
A solicitor’s bill will be composed of three distinct elements:
- Outlays — covering things the solicitors has had to pay for on your behalf while working on your case
- Fees — covering the professional services provided by the solicitor to you
A more detailed breakdown of the costs can be requested from the solicitor.
Conditional Fee or "No Win No Fee" Agreements
Some solicitors, particularly those dealing with personal injury cases, offer their services on a ‘no win no fee’ basis, meaning that your solicitor is only paid if the case is won. If a victory is achieved, they will also be entitled to a ‘success fee’ on top of their ordinary costs.
In the event of the case being won, the solicitor’s fees are generally paid for by the losing side, as well as other costs incurred during the case – these additional costs are known as ‘disbursements’. If there are any costs which the losing side is not ordered to pay, however, you will have to foot the bill.
As "no win no fee" suggests, you do not have to pay any money to your solicitor if they fail to win the case for you. The term can be misleading, as there will still be the costs of the other side to pay, as well as disbursements. Even when your solicitor is working on a no win no fee basis, it would still be wise to take out a legal expenses insurance policy.