Legal advice can be expensive, so you will want a clear idea of how much it will cost and how you will pay. Solicitors may take payment in a number of different ways. It may be appropriate to have a retainer, which is an agreement between you and your solicitor in which hourly charge rates and the scope of the work are set out. Talk to your solicitor about their fees to find a payment method that suits you both.
- Fixed fee – some services, such as conveyancing or making a will, may be offered at a fixed charge for the whole job (even if, for instance, your house purchase overruns). Make sure the solicitor confirms in writing precisely what is included in the agreed fee.
- Hourly rate – this is usual for more complicated legal matters. Make sure the solicitor gives you an estimate of how long the work is likely to take. Tip: ask if any of the work can be carried out by a junior colleague (with a lower hourly rate) and then signed off by a senior, to save money.
- Conditional fee (‘No win, no fee’) – in which the solicitor takes a fee only if the case is won (so they will only take a case if there is a reasonable chance of winning). The fee is taken from the damages awarded, or paid by the losing party in the case. InEnglandandWalesthis fee cannot exceed a normal fee charged at an hourly rate. InScotlandthe winning solicitor may add a percentage to their fee, but both the fee and the additional percentage must be agreed in advance of going to court.
- Insurance cover – check your home and car insurance policies to see if you have legal expenses cover, and that this covers the problem that you are taking to a solicitor. Read your policy details carefully to ensure that you follow the right procedure with your insurer and your solicitor.
- Legal aid – where the government helps you fund the cost of legal advice. This is only available for some types of legal advice in civil cases such as divorce and property-related matters. It is dependent on your financial eligibility (your income and your assets), whether your case has a reasonable chance of winning, and whether it is worth the time and money this might take. Only individuals are eligible, not companies.