12 Feb What will a Family Lawyer cost?
10 steps you should take to limit your legal costs
Although Hollywood is prone to portraying law professionals as greedy, unethical tyrants, this is more often than not as fake as the main characters’ lips. Most lawyers enter the field because they want to dedicate their talents to helping others in their time of need. So, how can you be sure your lawyer is one of the latter, especially where their bill is concerned? We’ve compiled 10 steps you can follow to find out what charges might be involved in your legal representation. Make sure to read to the end for a bonus step you wouldn’t think a lawyer would suggest.
STEP 1 – Speak directly with a Lawyer
Getting legal assistance can feel daunting at the best of times. Most of us speak to a range of people before we consult the professionals. Friends are usually the first to let us know what they think, and there are plenty of acquaintances happy to share their opinions. While this advice is generally well-meaning, it can be entirely unhelpful and anxiety-inducing.
Finding out from the source what your potential case might cost can remove some uncertainty. So, although it might at first be unnerving, the best advice we can give is to pick up the phone and speak to someone with experience. Most firms will offer a free initial consultation to determine if you would like to work together. Make the most of this opportunity.
STEP 2 – Understand how lawyers’ set their fees
In general, a law firm will charge an hourly rate, rather than a set ‘fee-for-service’ charge. This approach is because the scope of works for each case is unique. They charge differing hourly rates for the different tasks a case requires, whether compiling your documents or representing you in front of a judge.
It is essential to know what rates the firm you choose will charge. Also, you should not feel embarrassed to have these clarified at the outset. After you have discussed the complexities of your case, your lawyer should be able to estimate the amount of time it should take to resolve. This way, you will have an idea of what it will cost.
STEP 3 – Fulfil your responsibilities
Concerning your lawyer’s estimate, keep in mind that it is your responsibility to ensure you provide them with all the information you can, promptly. If you are not frank with them about all of the related details, you might end up costing yourself time, energy and money later on. Be prepared, open, and honest in sharing your information. The process will flow more smoothly with your time, energy, and financial expenditure.
STEP 4 – Know what fixed costs are involved
There will be other fixed costs in your Family Law case that will not be under the control of your appointed lawyer or solicitor. These include Court and government fees and are put in place by the Australian Government and the Family Court of Australia.
The Federal Court of Australia tells us that “Court fees are set by the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court Regulation 2012. This Regulation is made by the Federal Government.”
These fees cover such things as filing legal documents and carrying out your hearing or other proceedings. Therefore, such costs are not set by (and cannot be controlled by) your lawyer. In most cases, your lawyer will pay these directly to the Court and charge you for them with the rest of your bill. The expenses that your legal representative pays on your behalf are referred to as disbursements.
STEP 5 – Find out if you are eligible for any cost exemptions or payment deferrals
In some circumstances, you may be eligible for an exemption or deferment of payment of the costs fixed by the Court. If you believe your situation warrants this, you can apply via the Federal Court of Australia Registry or fill out a form through their Exemption of fees page. However, if you are unsure if you are eligible, your legal representative should be able to advise you of the best course to take.
STEP 6 – Do a cost-benefit analysis
In consultation with your legal representative, it’s constructive to openly discuss what they believe you might gain from your settlement. This outcome should be weighed up against the estimated costs of the case, to ensure that you are happy with the possible results or consequences.
STEP 7 – Your case is a commercial transaction
When you engage a family lawyer, you are entering into a commercial transaction, even if it does concern your private affairs. As such, it’s necessary to consider your interactions in this light. You are paying a professional for their advice and representations. You should consider the relationship as you would any other commercial transaction.
STEP 8 – Put your emotions on hold
Your emotions are incredibly valuable in bringing awareness to matters that need attention, and you should not disregard them as you traverse your legal journey. However, allow your emotions to rule your decision-making, and you may come away from the experience poorer (in all regards).
As mentioned in Step 7, thinking about your situation as a commercial transaction can help you keep your emotions in check. Focusing on the logistics of precisely what is needed and the timeframe it is necessary can also help you deal with the situation without your feelings getting in the way.
If you find that your case raises unhelpful emotions, seek assistance outside of the legal profession to deal with what comes up. This approach will allow your lawyer to focus on ensuring your case proceeds as quickly as possible.
STEP 9 – Insist on transparency
Keep asking your lawyer what the next step will cost. The firm should be open to explaining the costs of each of the ongoing requirements of your case. If they do not want to reveal their service costs, it might be wise to consider if they are the right firm for you.
STEP 10 – Ask questions
If you are unsure about what a service is or why it is necessary, ask for an explanation. While the legal language is vital for lawyers and their staff, it won’t help you if you don’t know what it means. Lawyers work with laypeople all the time, so are used to explaining what their legalese means.
It is in your best interests to be aware of precisely what is happening and how much it is costing. So, don’t take a back seat and let everything ‘go with the flow,’ because this is where you can let costs run away with you.
BONUS STEP – Get other opinions
Remember that this is your case, your settlement, and you need to be comfortable with the person representing you. If you don’t like what your lawyer is saying or something about it that doesn’t sit right with you, make sure to get a second opinion.
Different lawyers have different levels of expertise in certain areas. If you’ve spoken to one who’s never handled a case similar to yours, perhaps it’s worth checking if there’s someone else who has.
If you have a complex case and are looking for a firm with a proven track record, contact Toomey Family Law for a free initial consultation or second opinion. We’ll guide you through each of these steps and help you build your case on a strong foundation for the future.