Are you concerned about your legal costs? Want to know more about deferred legal fees?
Deferring the payment of legal fees until the conclusion of the matter is an option sometimes offered by legal firms in family law matters.
Whilst this has the advantage of not having to pay legal fees upfront, there are often disadvantages that are not included in the promotional material. Make sure you read the fine print and know your legal rights.
In deferred fee matters, the firm may decide to charge a higher rate because you are not paying legal fees as you go. Further, if you are not happy with the service and want to change lawyers, you may have to immediately pay all the legal fees incurred to date before the firm will let you take your file and go to another firm. If you can’t afford to do this, you may be stuck with a firm you are less than happy with.
There may also be pressure on you to accept an offer you are not entirely happy with so the firm can be paid their legal fees.
If you are considering a deferred legal fee option, make sure you are fully of aware of your legal rights. Read the fine print of any cost agreement very carefully.
What you need to know about Deferred Legal Fees
• Make sure you aware what charges will apply and what the hourly rate will be. Ask if this is higher than the solicitor’s normal charge out rate because of the deferred fee option.
• Ask if you are able to change lawyers without immediately paying your account if you are unhappy with the service or would prefer to change lawyers for other reasons. Some lawyers may let you take your file if you sign an “irrevocable authority” to have your fees paid on settlement but others may not agree to release your file unless your fees are paid in full.
• Ask how often you will be kept informed of your costs as the matter progresses. Make sure you know your rights if the fees accruing are significantly higher than expected.
• Ask if you have to pay any disbursements upfront or whether these are also deferred.
• Ask what happens if the firm changes their mind and no longer believes you have a strong case. Can they stop acting?
WHAT ARE MY OPTIONS ABOUT PAYMENT OF LEGAL COSTS?
Make sure you know all available options before entering into a cost agreement.
• Instead of engaging a solicitor to run your entire matter and deferring all fees you may wish to consider engaging a solicitor to do certain work for a fixed fee;
• Alternatively, in some matters you may be able to get the other side to give you money upfront to help cover your own legal fees. This is known as a “Hogan Order” or interim property settlement; and
• Ask what you can do yourself to help reduce your legal fees.
Any Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us.