Lawyer Fees in Singapore
Lawyer fees seem to be one of the remaining mysteries of the world. Here, we attempt to shine some light on the process of how a lawyer charges.
Generally, it all begins with the consultation. Before the consultation, there may be phone calls and emails, but aside from the more common issues such as divorce, deed polls, will-writing, and probate matters, the lawyer will wait till he can review the situation at the consultation before making firm commitments about fees.
For the consultation, most lawyers charge for it. They feel that it is an application of their time and expertise. A small number will waive it for the first 30 minutes in order to attract business. The charge for the consultation varies with the duration of the consultation and the reputation of the lawyer. Top lawyers may demand a large deposit even before the meeting.
At the consultation, the lawyer will review the situation by looking through the documents and highlight the potential legal issues involved. He will give advice as to the course of action to be taken. He will decide whether he wants to take on the case or not. Sometimes, he may advise that the amount concerned is too small, or that there is no real legal case.
The lawyer will also advise on legal costs. If the issue involves litigation, he should give a cost estimate for each stage of the litigation process. At the end of the consultation, if both parties are agreeable, the client signs a Warrant to Act or Letter of Engagement.
Generally, a lawyer charges on an hourly basis. The cost estimate that he gives is based on how many hours he likely needs to complete what is required. When it actually comes to the work, the lawyer will note down how much time has been spent working on your case, breaking them down into research, drafting, filing documents, etc. Naturally, senior lawyers charge more on an hourly basis than junior ones. Hence, if the law firm is not a sole proprietorship, the groundwork is likely to be done by junior lawyers in order to keep the costs low for the client based on this fee model.
As mentioned, for the more common issues such as divorce, deed polls, will-writing, and probate matters, competition among lawyers is fierce and the procedures are more standardised. As such, there are many enterprising lawyers in Singapore who have begun to charge fixed fees subject to conditions (that the divorce is uncontested, for example).
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