Paying your legal fees
Relevant across multiple law types
If you do not qualify for Legal Aid and there are no other means of paying for your legal matter, then it is likely that you will have to pay for it yourself.
Solicitors are free to agree with you whatever payment levels they wish, subject to it not being extortionate. Generally, solicitors will either charge by the hour or a fixed fee.
It is important to be clear about the difference between a fixed fee and a quote. A fixed fee is a fixed amount that the solicitor will charge for the job, however long it takes. Often solicitors will specify in some detail what is covered in the fixed fee and if events or steps occur outside those specifications then further fees will be payable. However, in the main, if you are offered a fixed fee that should be what you pay for that service.
A quote or an estimate is the solicitor’s estimation of what something may cost generally based on their hourly rate. It does not mean that the solicitor is contractually obliged to deliver the services for that fee.
The traditional way for solicitors to charge would be by an hourly rate taking into account the number of hours spent on a matter. Generally, the more experienced a solicitor or person dealing with a case, the higher the hourly rate. In theory a more experienced person should take less time, so sometimes even if the hourly rate is higher the time spent maybe less, leaving a smaller bill than with a solicitor quoting a lower hourly rate.
It is important when being quoted fees based on an hourly rate to agree an estimate of what the fees are likely to be and ask the solicitor to tell you in advance if the fees are going to substantially deviate from that estimate.
If you are unhappy about a solicitor’s fees you can complain via the solicitor firm’s internal complaints system and you also have the right, in certain circumstances, to have those fees assessed by the court.
There are some strict time limits on this, and full details should be in the solicitor’s terms and conditions or on the invoice.