Legal fees are notorious, not only for being high but they also seem to be unpredictable. That is partly because everybody starts off hoping that matters will resolve relatively easily, that the issues are not complicated and it will all be over very quickly and cheaply. Life is rarely like that, other people do not agree with your position, you are not always right and what you want is not what your opponent might want. So unforeseen arguments and difficulties arise and these cost time and money.
There was a recent article in the Guardian about a new café in Shoreditch where you do not pay for your coffee or the Wi-Fi instead you pay just to be there, at the rate of 3p per minute. Is that going to take your enjoyment of the coffee away, knowing that as every minute goes by it is costing you more and more? You will certainly be encouraged not to linger or enjoy some quiet time knowing that it is costing you, even if only 3p per minute.
Similarly knowing that every time you telephone or email your Lawyer costs you money, the longer that you speak to them the more it will cost, the more they do the more it will cost, the more helpful they are the more it will cost, the more difficult the opponent is the more it will cost. All of these add to what is generally a very stressful situation anyway. Wouldn’t it be better if you knew from the outset exactly how much your divorce or separation or argument about the children was going to cost?
Not so long ago the Co-op were quoting Probate fees at a fixed fee of – I cannot remember whether it is £2,000 or £4,000 – at a time when the average Probate Lawyer’s fees were about £600 – £800. Mine remain at that rate, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the complexity of the matter. Interestingly enough though, people preferred a fixed fee of even £2,000 to £4,000 rather than taking the risk of a Lawyer’s quote of approximately £600 – £800 but that it would depend on the work involved. People it seems are prepared to pay for certainty.
One thing you know from the outset is that when emotions are involved people tend not to act rationally and it is almost impossible to predict how a matter will progress – because you do not know what your opponent will do or say or how they will react to the situation, you do not even know what your client will do as they probably do not know themselves. So we are in a situation where the cost of most family cases is unpredictable.
Our policy at Cotswold Family Law is to bill when the costs are around £200 – £300 so that people are aware of how much they are spending. But I tend to think that people would prefer a fixed fee rather than the uncertainty of not knowing the final bill and the knowledge that every letter, like every minute in the café is costing them.
At Cotswold Family Law we do try to give realistic estimates, we can give a fixed fee for a divorce, we have a pay as you go system – whereby you pay at the end of every meeting for the work incurred at that time and you can do as much or as little on your matter as you like. Obviously the more you do the less we charge. We like to be as flexible and accommodating as possible and fully appreciate that at a stressful time, worries about costs are just another concern that you can ill afford.
Though it has to be remembered that with most things you get what you pay for, you need proper advice and good advice can save you money and so you do not sell yourself short.
We hope we offer good value.