Paying for legal work by instalments

The question of how to pay for a lawyer's time is a big one for most people. Legal aid is still available for some work, but it is now much harder to get. There may be some other help available - through household or car insurance for example. More often than not, you will have to pay your lawyer's fees yourself.

It is important to agree up front with your lawyer what you want them to do for you, and the amount you will pay for them to achieve this for you. A good lawyer will give you full information about your total costs. This will include how the costs will be worked out and if there is VAT on top. You will be told if there will be any other items to pay for, for example search or report fees. Costs like these are called disbursements. Don't be afraid to ask your lawyer to clarify information about costs. It is sensible to ask that information about costs is given to you in writing.

When you first start using a lawyer, you can discuss payment options with them. Depending on the work you want them to do, they could offer you a 'no win, no fee' deal. You should also make sure you understand how often you will receive a bill and the time scale for settling it. You can ask if your lawyer's firm will allow you to make payments over time. Sometimes law firms can offer those arrangements. For example, you might be able to pay your legal costs by instalments. You should check whether there will be any additional charge for paying in this way.

If your firm is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Sometimes an arrangement to pay for legal costs by instalments creates a consumer credit agreement between you and the law firm. If there is a consumer credit agreement, and the firm is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the firm must follow the SRA's rules on consumer credit.

Taking a loan from your solicitor to pay for fees and disbursements

You may sometimes need to pay the costs of obtaining something in addition to your lawyer's fee. One example could be paying for a medical report that is needed for your case. You can sometimes agree to enter into a consumer credit agreement with the solicitor's firm so that you can pay for this. You should talk to the solicitor about your payment options when you first meet them.