The Lowering Cost of Legal Services in Singapore

For as long as lawyers have been providing legal services and clients have been consuming them, cost has always been an issue of contention. The constant refrain in Singapore is that legal fees are too high, and that most lawyers are over-paid stuffed suits sitting in their plush offices in the Central Business District.

Are Legal Fees Too High In Singapore?

In general, lawyers are entitled to receive reasonable fees for their work. There are also certain provisions in place in the Legal Profession Act and Solicitor’s Remuneration Order to protect consumers from being overcharged. What this means is that most lawyers and law firms will charge within a fairly standardized band for legal fees as to do so otherwise could kill their professional reputation.

Notwithstanding these measures, legal consumers in Singapore have noted that the way legal fees are charged tends to be fairly inscrutable, and this opacity has bred a certain mistrust of lawyers in general as these consumers usually aren’t knowledgeable about how their legal fees are charged in the first place. Complaints tend to revolve around the high cost of legal services, what specifically are they being charged for and the wide range of prices for seemingly similar legal work.

Fortunately, a combination of the influx of lawyers into the industry and the slowing economy has led to a marked decrease in the cost of legal services in Singapore, with law firms cutting fees and coming up with innovative pricing schemes (read: fixed fees) in order to attract new clients.

The Downward Pressure On Legal Fees

This is particularly the case for areas of consumer law, such as divorce, conveyancing, and will and probate matters. There are also certain aspects of legal work any lawyer can undertake, such as a deed poll, and prices for such work tend to be a race to the bottom, as the work is simple and the risk of liability is negligible.

For example, there are a number of enterprising law firms that no longer charge by the hour with respect to divorce cases. Even as fixed fees become more prevalent, the stiff competition among law firms has also caused prices of these fees to drop drastically over the years.

Just a few short years ago, an uncontested divorce used to cost around $4000 to $5000. Today, there are a number of law firms that offer all-in prices around $2000.

Similarly, deed polls could cost more than $150 whereas you can now execute a deed poll for less than $100.

However, the downward pressure on prices isn’t just relegated to the consumer segment of legal services. In the intellectual property space, lawyers used to conduct trade mark searches and file trade marks in excess of $2000. Nowadays, some law firms offer this same service for half the cost. 

Will Legal Technology Affect Legal Fees?

In addition, there are a number of startups in the legal tech space looking to reinvent how legal services are provided. While the legal industry has traditionally been extremely averse to change, tech-savvy entrepreneurs have been making inroads into how legal services can be delivered more efficiently. It appears that most of these legal startups’ focus is on corporate law and the main reason for this could be that at the end of the day, litigation still requires the physical presence of a lawyer and there’s only so much technology can assist in this arena.

As clients become more sophisticated and discerning in how they are billed, it almost seems inevitable that legal fees will continue to fall across the board in the future.

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