A business commentator recently gave five tips on “How to avoid jaw dropping legal bills”, and similar concerns were also noted in a New Zealand newspaper’s business pages. Those five tips, in summary, were as follows:

  1. Get Estimates for the scope of representation
  2. Try to negotiate a flat-fee agreement
  3. Check in every week and month on the bill
  4. Prep documents before sending them off
  5. Get an experienced specialty lawyer

Here at BvonD we are very aware of the costs of legal work, and have for many years aimed to avoid clients receiving unexpected shocks when receiving our invoices.  How do we seek to avoid our clients getting “jaw dropping legal bills”?:

1.   Get Estimates for the scope of representation:

When we commence work on a new matter we provide our client with either an estimate of our expected fees or a quote, together with a letter of engagement.  If further work is required beyond what is initially anticipated we provide a further estimate.

2.   Try to negotiate a flat-fee agreement:

Where the work we are asked to do involves transactional or other work where we know what time is involved we can give “flat-fee” quotations.  This applies to most sale and purchase work for houses, farms and businesses, mortgage preparation, leases, and Wills.  Even in those areas of work unexpected problems can arise and we advise if the quoted fee may be exceeded in such circumstances.

Much of our work (especially Court work) is subject to so many unknown factors when we start work on a file that we simply cannot give more than a well-educated estimate of likely fees.  Because of the experience of our lawyers, we seek to ensure that estimates are realistic as we do not want to under-estimate the work required and later cause our clients distress when an invoice arrives.

While flat-fee agreements may sound good in principle (and might work for large corporate work), there is a danger that a lawyer doing work for a flat fee will lose motivation to do a good job if the work becomes unprofitable.  We know our clients are, sensibly, cost-conscious and we are committed to doing a good job for clients while keep legal costs as low as practicable.

3.   Check in every week and month on the bill:

We do not bill weekly, but we do usually send monthly interim bills for matters that are on-going, and where estimates are given we review the accuracy of those estimates as work proceeds and advise clients if a new estimate is required.

4.   Prep documents before sending them off:

This advice is commonsense.  We ask our clients to provide us with all information we need to provide them with legal advice.  If we get comprehensive information in an organised form this saves time and therefore money, as it reduces the need for us to spend time organising material and ask for missing information.

5.   Get an experienced specialty lawyer:

One of the reasons for our motto, Excellence in Law, is that we have experienced specialty lawyers who prefer to do legal work for our clients properly.  We would rather not do work than be doing inferior work.

We have lawyers in our firm who are highly experienced in their fields of law, specialising in areas of legal practice such as sales, purchases, leasing and financing properties and businesses; forming companies and trusts; preparing and advising on employment agreements; advising on and drafting Wills and administering estates; advising on commercial contracts; advising on and representing clients in disputes and Court proceedings (family, civil and resource management); societies and charities; and other areas of the law.

Our lawyers and support staff are organised into the specialty Teams – Property and Commercial, Family, and Civil Litigation – to ensure that our clients receive advice and service from lawyers and staff experienced in those specialty areas of legal work.

If we can be of any assistance to you, please contact us.