Lawyers aim to charge by the hour and this can vary from £120 to over £1,500 depending on subject matter, location, experience, reputation and, importantly, what the market will bear. A mid ranking civil lawyer will charge £250 – £350 per hour to review a mortgage Deed but a criminal lawyer will be lucky to earn £150 per hour for defending a person against a charge where custody is a possibility. The differential simply reflects the market at work and no one complains or gloats.
Solicitors sometimes need specialist advice themselves to do the best job for you. This often requires appointing a Barrister with appropriate expertise chosen by the solicitor on your behalf. The solicitor then sifts through the facts to phrase the right questions in the correct legal language to the Barrister. The Barrister will digest, research, opine and may invite the client to a ‘conference’ which is a chargeable meeting. You will be billed the fees of the chosen Barrister and in addition the solicitor for preparing the ‘instruction’.
Lawyers require reimbursement of ‘out-of-pocket’ expenses such as photocopying, couriers and preparing ‘bundles’. Clients are always billed for travelling time as that is time which could have been spent by the lawyer on earning fees elsewhere.
If you ask for a discount or other concession, do not expect the threat to shop around to have any impact. You may be treated worse in terms of priority and service when you do eventually hire that same lawyer. The provision of legal advice is not an efficient, competitive market and will probably never change.
- Always ask for a discount to the hourly rate or a fixed or capped fee. You may be offered a 5% to 10% discount if you are lucky.
- Check out https://www.unbiased.co.uk/life/get-smart/how-much-does-a-solicitor-cost/ for reference pricing but do not assume it is achievable.
- Challenge the need for meetings and conferences.
- Ask for barristers’ opinions to be written and in plain English.
- Use conference calls because, although they are chargeable, they can be cut short and avoid travelling.