Alternative Billing Structure
Obtaining the services of a lawyer today is very different from what it once was. But, a lot of people retain old school thoughts when it comes to lawyers, especially when it comes to pricing and rates. Overseas law firms have been more progressive in this space, with Australia playing catch up. But, better late than never! AMK Law is living proof that the legal industry is changing and is a lot more dynamic than it once was. Law firms are introducing different structures to enhance the client experience and create service models that suit their clients’ needs. With the rise of boutique and online firms, one area of focus is fees and the structures around billing.
The weight has shifted when it comes to the lawyer/client relationship. The scales may have fallen in favour of the lawyer in the past, but not anymore. Today, being customer solution focussed and providing a positive client experience is paramount, even for top tier firms. So, with that came the discussion of fees and pricing and adopting tailored pricing solutions structures that suited the needs of clients.
This article aims to create transparency by breaking down the types of billing structures and opening up the discussion about pricing. This is incredibly beneficial information to be armed with when you are shopping for a lawyer. NewLaw firms like AMK Law adopt an open and transparent approach to our billing structure, our advice and our services.
So, before you sign with a law firm, have a read through of the different payment options available. There isn’t a one fee approach anymore, and consideration is made for types of matters, complexity, packages, and templates.
Retainer agreement billing structure
The retainer is a (preferably) written agreement between a client and lawyer to pay a defined cost in exchange for a specified set of legal services. What’s key in a retainer is for there to be a cost in exchange for good or services. This is very common and helps clients to know the estimated costs before entering the agreement.
Hourly billing isn’t yet extinct. But, many law firms are moving towards having a range of alternative fee structures in place, such as having hourly billing with a cap, depending on the type of matter and area of law.
When it comes to hourly billing, the rate will depend on the lawyer handling the matter and how many years of experience they have. Clearly, the more experienced the lawyer, the more their hourly rates are. But, it’s worthwhile noting that if a junior lawyer is handling a matter, the work should ultimately be signed off by a Partner, still maintaining the same high level of standard.
The key with hourly billing is that there will be an estimated cost of services. It isn’t the case that you will have no idea what the total will be before hiring your lawyer. The benefit is that it may work out more cost-effectively depending on the nature of the matter and, if not, there is a cap in place to protect you from fees blowing out. For more information about legal costs go to LSBC website.
Fixed fees, billing structure
Fixed fees is a popular option for services that are less technical and for matters that don’t have a huge swing in variance. So, for particular documents that are more template-based with the advice being provided quite minimal. Today, there is a wider scope in terms of the services and products being offered by firms that fall into this category of pricing. Such as, law firms providing fixed-rate packages and template agreements that require minimal legal advice beyond the building of the agreement.
For example, with startups, there will be a suite of agreements that you require as you bring on investors, hire employees or contractors, or if there are co-founders. Startups need to have these agreements; however, budget restrictions mean they are not willing or able to seek legal advice. Instead, an alternative is to find a firm that offers customised template documents that require minimal legal advice, lowering the overall cost. And then, as the startup grows and prospers, they can then seek more tailored legal advice at that time.
No win, no fee billing structure
It still exists! You may have seen the advertisements on TV and heard them on the radio, and thought it was a thing of the past. But it is not. It is worthwhile noting that the case that there are zero costs if the final outcome is not successful. There are generally still associated costs that are not included in this form of pricing.
This form of pricing is not widespread in law. Areas of law you may see it is in personal injury cases and certain litigation based matters.
Depending on the complexity and length of a matter, law firms may decide to have blended billing. What this is, is a mix of hourly rates and fixed fees. Within the matter itself, and depending on the complexity of the matter, the arrangement may be to mix up the costings. This works well when there is a range of lawyers with varying experience levels working on your matter. So, this form of billing will account for the different hourly rates. And, on top of that, some tasks may be more menial, and the costs should factor this in.
Choosing the right lawyer for your needs is an important decision. When searching for a lawyer, look at their experience, and whether they thoroughly understand your requirements, including out of the box and creative solutions. A lawyer should also be forward-thinking and are able to foresee your needs in the future.
In addition to that, other factors to consider when retaining the services of a lawyer, include:
- Transparency of services
- The range of fee structures available for the service you require
- A clear break down of costings
It’s important to have an estimated total of the costs upfront and for the charges to be broken down. Whatever fee structure you choose, there should be a clear breakdown of the costs ensuring that your service is complete. Law today is moving towards being client focussed, so customer service, experience and offering tailored solutions are more prominent today than ever before. Ask questions of your potential lawyer, seek clarification, and be happy with your decision.
AMK Law has a billing structure that suits your needs. If you have questions, please feel free to contact us for a free quote.
Important disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only and it is not, nor is intended to be legal advice.