How do I hire a lawyer and what happens after that?

Published on August 14, 2012

Clients engage lawyers for a variety of purposes. Filing for divorce, will writing and the sale and purchase of property are just a few examples. But how can one go about hiring a lawyer and what happens subsequently?

Before you actually start looking for a lawyer, you need to determine why you need one in the first place. If you are hiring a lawyer merely to draft a will, a power of attorney, or just to make a deed poll to change your name, then it is a simple process.

  1. Search for a list of law firms or lawyers. This can be found from the Law Society of Singapore. We also provide a Find a Lawyer service.
  2. After deciding on a lawyer, call and arrange for an appointment. A phone consultation is usually free and non-obligatory, where the lawyer will brief you on what is required of you in the relevant matter(s).
  3. If you do decide to proceed, set up an appointment to meet with the lawyer at his/her office. The lawyer will then draft out the will, deed poll or power of attorney after you provide him with your personal particulars. This is usually a one-off matter with one-off costs.

For more complicated matters such as litigation suits, matrimonial proceedings or the sales and purchases of properties, it may take up more time and expenses. The lawyer may require a series of meetings to understand your needs and demands. Do bear in mind that the lawyer will only give advice and offer the courses of action to undertake. You, as the client, will be the one to decide on your preferred course of action.

For more complicated issues, the general steps are as follows:

  1.  After deciding on the lawyer and meeting up for a confidential consultation, the lawyer will advise you on the steps required for recourse.
  2. You will decide on the course of action and the lawyer will then start with the first draft of the proceedings, be it a writ of summons, affidavit or defence.
  3. Depending on the case, your lawyer may draft and send a letter of demand to let the other party know of your demands in writing. If the other party declines, litigation, arbitration or mediation may then be required.
  4. If the other party’s lawyer raises any issues, these will be communicated to your lawyer. Your lawyer will then give you the gist of the other party’s demands before rendering further advice on possible action or settlement.
  5. If a trial is scheduled, the lawyer will let you know when to go for trial, what to expect and how to conduct yourself in court. He will also go through with you the kind of questions to be expected and how to answer them.
  6. After the trial, if the court rules in your favour, you may get the recourse you want and the case is closed. Otherwise, you can appeal against the decision.
  7. In certain situations, the court may grant orders for damages. If the other party refuses to perform these obligations, you may authorise your lawyer to commence a writ of seizure and sale where the other party’s physical possessions are seized and sold, with the sales proceeds going to you as damages.

Because these involve more complicated procedures, the lawyer normally bills the client on an hourly basis by counting the hours of consultation and work performed before consolidating the bill accordingly. If more than one lawyer is involved, the client will be billed according to the seniority of the lawyers. If it is a partner handling the case, the charges can be up to $2,000 per bill. For more junior lawyers, the charges can be approximately $250 and above.

In addition to consultation and charges involved in phone calls and preparatory work, there are also incidental charges that will be included in the bill to cover the cost of writing emails, faxing, photocopying, scanning, transport and so on. Such charges can range from $75 to $150 per bill.