Legal Guides

Solicitor Legal Fees

One of the most common questions we get from our clients, if not THE most common question is – what are your fees? Another being: how are your fees calculated? We have found that solicitors fees are a huge source of confusion for clients, many people try to figure it out themselves and this can lead to anger and frustration. The best way to find out is to ask your solicitor. Once you ask, they can explain how it all works to you, without all the legal jargon you might find researching online yourself.

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There are rules in place that set out how solicitors can charge their clients. These rules are known as Section 68 of the Solicitors (Amended) Act of 1994. These rules state that a solicitor must let a client know – in writing – of the following information regarding fees:

  • How much they intend on charging the client
  • Estimate of fees that may be charged in cases where it is impossible to calculate actual charges
  • Detail out the basis on which the charges are to be made.

How much can a solicitor charge?

These rules also stipulate that where the matter is of a contentious nature, a solicitor cannot charge a percentage of any monies awarded to the client. You should see on all solicitors’ website (as stipulated in the Law Society of Ireland Advertising Regulations) the following line:

*In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.

This is a tell-tale sign that the solicitor is compliant with these regulations. The only exception to this rule is in debt collection where percentage charges are permitted and common practice.

How are charges calculated?

A solicitor will base a client’s charges on the following factors:

  • How complicated, urgent and important your case is
  • How difficult the circumstances of your case are
  • The skill, specialised knowledge needed for your case and the staff that will be involved in it
  • Amount of hours the solicitor and staff spend on the case
  • The number of documents that they must prepare
  • The value of the transaction involved
  • Where your solicitor must travel to deal with the case

What should my bill look like?

Once a client receives a bill, it should include the following:

  • Solicitors fees for their work
  • Charges for general expenses incurred while handling the case (postage, stationery, for example)
  • Other charges where third-party professionals or organisations needed to be brought into the case
  • VAT

Can a solicitor make deductions from a client’s award?

No, in general, a solicitor may not make any deductions from a client’s award unless they have an agreement in writing with the client. A client may have an agreement with the solicitor that allows them to do this in circumstances, for example, where they have provided significant legal services over a long period of time.

Who pays for my solicitor’s costs?

When your solicitor sends you a bill following a successful case, you are responsible for payment of the bill. When settling your case, your solicitor will do their best to get as much as possible of your costs from the other side. Sometimes, the other side may be instructed to pay your total costs, however at times only a portion of costs are awarded to you from the other side, in this case the remaining balance of the fees are due by you.

Can I pay fees from my settlement?

If you are not awarded costs from the other side (i.e. that the other side pays your solicitors fees), you can use your settlement amount to pay your fees. Your solicitor must send you a bill before this happens. You will be asked to sign a document that allows your solicitor to take their costs from your settlement.

What is important to take away from this article is that fees are transparent, fair and in many cases the client doesn’t have to pay the full amount (if they have been awarded costs from the other side as part of a settlement).

Your solicitor is there for you, to walk you through the case, answer any questions you may have and to ensure your best interests are met at all stages.

So next time the subject of fees appears, don’t be afraid to ask questions – that’s what your solicitor is there for!

*In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.