Legal Costs in Family Law
Posted: 21st January 2015
Posted in: News
Posted by: Dean Evans, Partner
Recently, we’ve had cause to review some of the accounts which law firms are rendering to their clients. Some because clients were unhappy with them and some because clients were genuinely overcharged and underserviced.
The accounts reveal that lawyers are engaging in a variety of practices – which are cause for concern to clients and to members of the legal profession generally:-
- Charging in ten minute units, meaning that a task which takes a short period of say three minutes, is rounded up to ten minutes;
- Charging in six minute units, with the same effect but to a lesser degree;
- Charging for repeated internal meetings between lawyers at which the client does not attend and has not specifically authorised;
- Exceeding quotations and costs estimates without approval from or reversion to the client;
- Undertaking work not discussed with and approved by the client and then billing for that work;
- Unparticularised accounts claiming thousands of dollars without the detail of what work has been performed to justify the account;and
- Charging for research time in uncomplicated matters where the lawyer’s knowledge should exclude that as a necessity
to name a few.
Clients disappointed with their accounts, can seek second opinions from lawyers concerning the accounts and their rights – if of course, the client’s concerns about the account have not been resolved by direct contact with the lawyer who issued the account.
At Evans & Company, we strive to keep clients informed of legal costs, to be honest and up front about them, and to give prudent estimates, sometimes quotations, for different stages of a client’s family law matter.
We charge in one minute units, so if a task takes one minute, one minute is charged to the client – not ten or six. Clients have commented that they like the “real time” accounting in lieu of what clients term “padding” of accounts for work not performed but charged for (the extra minutes billed but not spent on the file).
We discuss with clients in personal meetings and in writing, the likely costs of each stage of a case and answer any concerns a client has about costs so as to avoid dissatisfaction.
We are supportive of clients setting limits and budgets and are realistic with clients when it comes to considering the legal costs involved in pursuing remedies in Court as opposed to settling and avoiding the legal costs – a must in any family law process.
If you have any concerns about the legal costs you have or are being charged or expect to be charged, you should always raise it as a topic for discussion. At the end of the day, lawyers are running a commercial enterprise and must be accountable to consumer expectations.
We accept instructions in relation to costs disputes as between family law clients and firms on the basis that we will assess what has been charged and give advice to clients. If a client has a genuine issue, we will endeavour to negotiate an outcome with the firm and may recommend using an independent party to assess the costs charged and the work performed to reach an outcome.
Should you wish to discuss this post and legal costs issues in family law, please feel free to make contact.
Have a great day and thanks for reading,
Evans & Company Family Lawyers