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Consent Order Lawyers

Tips for checking the bill from your family lawyer


Lawyers have the option to issue a lump sum bill or an itemised bill at the end of the agreed billing period. If you wish to be able to check what you have been billed for, you should request an itemised bill and the legal practice must comply with your request.


Your itemised bill where the fees are calculated on a time basis should ideally include:

  • the date each item of work was done arranged in chronological order

  • details of the time spent on each item of work

  • the name of the fee earner who has performed the work

  • a detailed description of each item of work done

  • the hourly rate of the person who performed the work

  • any outlays/disbursements such as post stamps, the cost of phone calls etc.

  • the amount charged for each item of work.

Where the fees are calculated on a fixed fee basis you should expect sufficient detail on your bill to show how and to what extent the retainer has been carried out in exchange for the costs being charged.

Items that should not be included on your bill

There are certain activities you should not normally be charged for. To keep your legal bill in check you should be on the lookout for these items:


Interoffice communications

You wouldn’t be the first client to refuse to pay for internal meetings at which you are not present and which are used to coordinate and discuss your case as part of doing business and managing risk. Such conferences can also result in several professionals simultaneously billing you for the same interoffice conference.

You may however expect to be charged for an internal meeting at which outside parties, such as experts and councils are present.


Legal research

Unless your case is so novel that no other legal case or statute can be relied upon for its resolution then your lawyer will likely charge you under this category. In all other circumstances your lawyer should not be charging you for something that they are expected to know.


Duplicate billing

As mentioned earlier multiple charges may result when several staff members of the law firm are charging you for the same interoffice conference in your absence. The same may occur when you sit in a meeting with your lawyer and his junior and/or other members of the team. There is usually no need for a duplication of effort and you will be justly asking for an explanation of such multiple charges.


Supervision and training

There is no reason you should tolerate inexperience resulting in higher costs for you. Examples include charges for the supervision of a junior lawyer by a senior lawyer or a partner and the training of a new lawyer. You are paying for competent legal advice and not for the supervision and training of professional staff. Such activities are important aspects of professional development however they are not something that you should be charged for.


Administrative work

Administrative work is part of the practice of law. It is your lawyer’s responsibility to ensure that such work is performed by the appropriate member of the legal practice.

For example, filing of court documents is usually done by filing clerks with a hourly rate lower than your lawyer’s. The instructions given to the filing clerk to perform a task are also administrative and should attract no additional charges.

Another example of administrative work is taking notes by your lawyer of the substance of an attendance or a call conversation. Keeping a record of such activities as a file note is not a professional task and you shouldn’t be paying for it.


Review and Revision

Often a document undergoes several reviews and revisions by both, lawyer and client before its final draft is done. Your lawyer shouldn’t be charging you for reviewing, revising and editing the same document multiple times unless your instructions have changed or some new information unavailable at the time of the original drafting has come into the possession of your lawyer. One way to identify charges is to look for keywords such as amend, edit, revise and change in the description of the item.


Tip!

If you have identified any of the above entries on your legal bill you may have been overcharged. Call your lawyer’s office and ask for clarification that should be provided at no extra charge.

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