If you need legal help, it's likely costs and fees will be at the front of your mind.
When it comes to hiring a legal professional, many find themselves worrying about the associated costs. Those on lower incomes or with a particular budget may be concerned about spending more than they can afford, which can add additional stress to what is already likely to be a stressful situation.
Picking the right professional
Once you have established that you require legal assistance, it is important to approach and hire the correct person. Lawyers and solicitors deal with a vast number of topics and subject matters, so ensure you pick someone based not only on what they charge, but also on their ability to handle your particular case.
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Once you have picked a professional to represent you, it is vital you both understand how much you will be required to pay, and how you are going to pay. The lawyer/solicitor should be willing to give you as much information as you want when it comes to fees. They will be able to indicate how much the work is likely to cost, how that figure has been calculated, and what will happen should they be required to work longer than anticipated.
All information about the cost of the lawyer’s services should be given to you in writing. Do not be afraid to ask questions or to enquire about charges; it is your money, and you should be fully aware what you are spending it on.
Once the case has concluded, the legal professional should give you a breakdown of the costs in writing. They will also be happy to answer any further questions you may have.
Paying per hour
Many solicitors will prefer to charge by the hour, though this does make it more difficult to estimate what final costs may be. The hourly cost will be based on a number of different factors; the experience of the professional, their position within their firm, how long they expect to spend on your case, for example.
Though the charges vary from professional to professional, a typical rule is that junior members of staff will charge around £100 per hour, while senior solicitors will be closer to £200. These figures should only be used as an indicator, however; only your chosen professional will be able to provide a concrete summary of potential costs and fees.
Many people prefer the idea of paying a fixed fee, largely because it offers them peace of mind. A fixed fee allows people to budget accordingly.
However, even if you agree to a fixed fee plan, there is still potential for additional costs. Your chosen professional will warn you in advance should this be the case, and they will not try to surprise you with additional fees, nor will they charge unless it is absolutely necessary.
A solicitor will be able to help you when you need to draw up a will. This is one of the most common tasks a solicitor deals with, and their expertise will vastly reduce the risk of errors, inconsistencies, or a failure to account for certain assets.
Though the cost of having a will drawn up will differ from professional to professional, a general rule is that the entire process will cost between £100 and £200. For a joint will, the costs could rise to around £300.
Someone else paying your costs?
If you are with a trade union, or you have a particular deal with an insurance company, you might be in a position to have your fees paid for you. They may also refer you to a specific solicitor.
Legal expenses insurance is purchased to fund the cost of legal advice and/or the costs associated with bringing a case to court. This type of insurance will not cover damages, but will instead cover legal expenses that come about during the case’s lifetime, such as expert witness fees, court costs, the legal costs of the opposition if you lose, and solicitor fees.
It is worth discussing the issue of legal insurance with your chosen professional prior to purchasing it, as they will be able to offer expert insight and advice.
Some people may be entitled to government funding to help them meet the costs of the legal services they require. Those who are eligible can utilise legal aid to get help with:
- Discrimination issues
- Benefit appeals
- Issues relating to children that have been taken into care
You can use the dedicated government website to find out if you are able to get legal aid.
LawWorks is a charity that works in England and Wales to connect volunteer lawyers with people in need of legal advice who are not eligible for legal aid and cannot afford to pay. You can learn more by visiting the LawWorks website.
Complaining about fees
If you are worried that your bill is too high and have already discussed the issue with your solicitor and failed to find a compromise, then you may make a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, an independent and impartial service that helps resolves legal disputes. You can find out more by visiting the Legal Ombudsman website.