10 Questions to Ask Your Solicitor about Costs

10 Questions to Ask Your Solicitor about Costs

By Law in Check

Smart Ways to Discuss Costs With Your Lawyer

Navigating legal fees and managing costs are critical for anyone engaging legal services in Australia. Unfortunately, many individuals and small businesses often encounter what they perceive as excessive or unjustified legal fees. At Law in Check, we specialise in meticulously analysing legal invoices to identify and challenge these costs. We negotiate with your lawyers on your behalf and, if necessary, represent you in court to ensure you are not overcharged.

This guide outlines ten essential questions you should ask a lawyer before engaging their services. These questions help you understand the structure of legal fees and enable you to manage your budget more effectively, ensuring financial clarity and fairness in your legal dealings.

1. Are There Any Upfront Costs?

It's common for solicitors to request funds be paid into a trust account before they begin working on your case. This upfront payment helps cover initial expenses and assures the law firm of your commitment to the proceedings. Always inquire about any upfront costs and the reasons behind them to avoid surprises.

2. What is the Billing Cycle?

Understanding the billing cycle is essential for financial planning. Lawyers may bill their services monthly, quarterly, or upon completion of specific tasks. Clarifying their billing cycle helps you manage your budget, ensuring you have the funds available when needed.

3. Is There the Possibility to Negotiate Fees?

You have the right to negotiate legal fees under section 174 2(a)(i) of the Legal Profession Uniform Law (LPUL). Discussing fees upfront can lead to more favourable terms and helps set a precedent for transparency and fairness throughout your case.

4. What are the Non-payment/Late Payment Fees?

According to section 195(1) of the LPUL, lawyers can legally charge late fees or interest on overdue invoices. This is something you want to avoid, so make sure you understand these potential costs and arrange your finances to ensure all invoices are paid when due.

5. How Can I Keep Costs to a Minimum?

Effective communication and document management can significantly reduce your legal costs. We suggest you limit excessive communications with your lawyer and organise all necessary documents efficiently, ideally using digital tools like Dropbox to create easily navigable folders. This approach minimises the time your lawyer spends on administrative tasks (such as emails and phone calls), reducing your overall costs.

6. Can I Have a Written Report on the Total Amount Charged So Far?

Under section 190(1) of the LPUL, you can request a detailed written report of all charges accrued in your case. This transparency allows you to monitor costs closely and manage your budget more effectively.

7. How Many Solicitors Will Be Working on My Case?

When you engage a lawyer, the entire firm may contribute to your case. This collaboration can lead to more comprehensive support, but it's crucial to understand how many people will be involved and how this affects billing. You must be wary of potential double billing or unnecessary duplication of work.

8. Will There Be Any Additional Costs I Should Be Aware Of?

Whilst known costs should be outlined in your Costs Agreement, unexpected costs can arise during legal proceedings. These might include filing fees, travel expenses, or barrister fees. Your lawyer should disclose these potential additional costs early in your relationship, as mandated by section 174(1)(b) of the LPUL. Knowing these costs upfront aids in accurate budgeting.

9. Can I Get a Breakdown of the Billing Structure and Invoice?

Some firms send lump-sum bills without itemised details. However, you are within your rights to request an itemised invoice that breaks down their services. This breakdown helps you understand what services have and haven’t been charged and identify any discrepancies or unreasonable fees.

10. Can I Get an Estimate of the Total Cost for My Case?

Section 174(1)(a) of the LPUL requires lawyers to provide a total cost estimate for your case (such as $50,000) rather than a range of costs (such as $40,000 to $50,000). This estimate helps you prepare financially and sets clear expectations about the financial commitment.

Why Choose Law in Check?

Law in Check has the expertise to challenge excessive or unjustified legal bills. With over 30 years of experience in Australia's legal industry, our team of specialised legal costs lawyers is well-equipped to analyse and challenge legal invoices. We’re not just lawyers - we’re accredited in costs law from the Law Institute of Victoria and Court-Appointed Costs Assessors from the Supreme Court of Queensland.

Understanding and managing your legal costs is essential, whether as an individual or small business. We’re here to ensure that your legal fees are both fair and reasonable.

See here for 5 tips to ensure your legal fees remain reasonable.

Should you require any help with understanding or challenging your legal fees,
call Law in Check on 1800 529 462 or send us an email at info@lawincheck.com.au.
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