Avoiding nasty surprises
Sometimes lawyers can give you a fixed quote for the work. Other times they work out your bill using charges and rates for the time spent on your case. Either way, lawyers are required by their regulators to be clear with you up front about how much you will end up paying, or how the bill will be worked out.
If you're paying yourself for legal services it's important to ask the right questions right from the start, before you sign up to use a lawyer. The key is finding out all you can from day one about the final bill you are likely to end up with.
Legal Choices recommends reading the Legal Ombudsman's guide on ten questions to ask your lawyer about costs to find out what to ask. Another top tip is always keep hold of the paperwork and emails from your lawyer, and then check back when the bill arrives. Whenever you agree that your lawyer can go ahead with something, always get it written down somewhere or sent to you on an email.
Challenging a legal bill
If you've already had the bill from your lawyer don't be afraid to speak up if it's more than you were expecting. Just give them a call or email and ask them to clearly explain the charges to you.
If there's any amount that you don't think you should be paying for then raise this with them. If things don't get sorted out and you still think the bill is wrong you can make a formal complaint to your lawyer. It's best to put this in writing. Mark it clearly as a complaint. Ask them to put things right, and explain what you would like to happen.
For advice about doing this see our types of lawyers page, and look up the type of lawyer that you've been using. If you still disagree with your lawyer after making a complaint about the bill, an organisation called the Legal Ombudsman might be able to advise you. Visit the Legal Ombudsman's site to find out more.
In some cases people that disagree with their own lawyer about a legal bill can also ask a costs lawyer to help them. These lawyers specialise in this type of situation, and they can help to get things sorted out. See our Costs Lawyers page to find out more.
Disagreements about legal costs after a court case
Sometimes in court cases the person on the losing side is told by the court to cover some or all of the legal costs of the winning side. People don't always agree with legal costs that they are asked to pay. In some cases they ask for a more detailed bill, so that they can highlight any costs they don't agree with and lodge them with the court.
A hearing can then take place to challenge those costs. In other cases people might disagree with the legal bill from their own lawyer after a court case. If this happens either the client or the lawyer can choose to get a detailed bill drawn up by a costs lawyer.
Costs lawyers provide services that help people resolve these sorts of disputes. This can include preparing a claim for you if you are due to receive legal costs, or opposing a claim for legal costs if you have lost a court case.
See our Costs Lawyers page to find out more.