- What do lawyers’ fees and charges represent
- Legal aid
- How does the lawyer calculate his fees ?
- Are there additional charges ?
- Must the lawyer inform you about his fees ?
- Can the overall cost of a proceeding be estimated ?
- Can lawyers’ fees and charges be covered by insurance ?
- What do you do if you disagree with your lawyer’s fees and charges ?
- Guarantees and recourse
1. WHAT DO LAWYERS’ FEES AND CHARGES REPRESENT
The lawyers’ fees constitute consideration for the work they do for you.
In particular this work includes :
→ intellectual services such as drafting contracts, consultations, procedural deeds;
→ exchange of correspondence;
→ representation before the courts, tribunals and other bodies.
Your lawyer spends a good proportion of his time on tasks which are invisible, such as studying files, researching case law, administrative work associated with managing the file.
Legal advice is accessible to all
2. LEGAL AID
An ancient and proud tradition of the Bar, it enables less wealthy people to obtain legal aid – totally or partially free depending on the amount of their resources.
This aid benefits:
→ a person with insufficient resources,
→ a minor,
→ a mentally ill person,
→ a prisoner,
→ a foreigner (to apply for regularisation of their stay or to appeal against a deportation order)
→ an asylum seeker or person who makes and application for displaced person status
It takes the form of either short consultations (initial advice) given at sessions organised by the Bar or assistance in a dispute or proceedings. In the latter case, the Legal Aid Office appoints a lawyer to assist the litigant; in certain cases the President of the Bar can automatically appoint a lawyer.
For more information, visit « individuals – free legal aid »
3. HOW DOES THE LAWYER CALCULATE HIS FEES ?
In Belgium, no scale is imposed. Fees are set freely by each lawyer, within fair limits, which are monitored by the Bar. Among the most widespread methods for calculating fees are :
The lawyer keeps a record of the time he dedicates to the case and invoices this at his chambers’ hurly rate, which is established depending on his renown, specialisation and experience, as well as that of any assistant.
Percentage of the amount at stake
Fees are calculated as a percentage of the amount at stake in the case, taking account in particular of the result. However, the law forbids fees being based exclusively on result, i.e. providing for the payment of fees only in the case of a positive result..
The lawyer sets his fees as a lump sum or by subscription, depending on the nature and frequency of the services to be provided.
4. ARE THERE ADDITIONAL CHARGES ?
Irrespective of his fees, the lawyer will ask you to reimburse costs he has incurred on your file such as correspondence, photocopies, telephone, travel and so on. The lawyer will also ask you to advance or reimburse his disbursements, i.e. the amounts he will have paid to third parties for the requirements of your file, such as fees of bailiffs, experts, translation and so on.
5. MUST THE LAWYER INFORM YOU ABOUT HIS FEES ?
Your lawyer is obliged to inform you, at the start of relations, of the method he will use to calculate his fees and charges. This will enable you to form as precise an idea as possible of the manner in which fees and charges will be calculated and which you will be invoiced, as well as their frequency. Do not hesitate to ask him for explanations of any particular matter.
6. CAN THE OVERALL COST OF A PROCEEDING BE ESTIMATED ?
In view of the specific aspects of any proceeding, it would be unrealistic to require your lawyer to assess the overall amount of fees and charges exactly at the start. Your lawyer will nonetheless attempt, as far as possible, to provide you with an approximate estimate. He will regularly update you with requests for provisions or interim statements in order to avoid a major accumulation of amounts which might be difficult to pay.
7. CAN LAWYERS’ FEES AND CHARGES BE COVERED BY INSURANCE ?
“Legal protection” insurance is often included in family third party liability insurance or in car insurance. If you have the slightest doubt about your insurance policy, give it to your lawyer. The law guarantees a free choice of lawyer by the insured.
Interventions by the insurer are nonetheless subject to ceilings which will vary. At the Law Courts and in the communes of Brussels, there are offices to enable the less wealthy, minors, asylum seekers, the mentally ill and prisoners to have free assistance from a lawyer.
The fees of a lawyer are often recovered by savings made through his intervention
8. WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU DISAGREE WITH YOUR LAWYER’S FEES AND CHARGES ?
If you think that the fees and charges claimed are excessive, or if you do not understand something on the invoice, do not hesitate to speak first of all to your lawyer. Dialogue will often clarify matters and resolve difficulties.
If the problem persists, if you wish you can make use of the free conciliation procedure organised by the Bar. This amicable procedure succeeds in 75% of cases in achieving an agreement. It is free.
9. GUARANTEES AND RECOURSE
Competence and ethics guarantee the services provided by your lawyer. If an error or wrong occurs however, the Bar will provide recourse and insurance.
If your lawyer commits an error or breach, irrespective of your recourse to the ordinary courts, you can lodge a complaint against him with the President of the Bar who can decide to commence disciplinary proceedings against him..
If you have suffered a loss on account of an error by your lawyer, if necessary you can benefit from insurance specially subscribed by the Bar in your favour.
This is as follows:
Professional Liability Insurance This covers your lawyer’s professional liability for the loss or damage he might have caused you in the exercise of his profession, or that of his staff, his pupils or employees. An example is the non-observance of procedural deadline. The cover is EUR 1,250,000, the lawyer at fault bearing an excess of EUR 2,500.
Dishonesty Insurance Professional liability insurance does not cover dishonest acts, for example embezzlement. To protect you in such a case, the Bar has subscribed to a second insurance guaranteeing, under certain conditions, reimbursement of funds embezzled by a lawyer by dishonesty committed in the exercise of his profession. The amount of cover is capped at EUR 50,000 per claim, EUR 250,000 per dishonest lawyer.