As a well established legal practice of more than 50 years, we strongly believe that not only do we provide an excellent service to our clients, but that our fees are reasonable, given the various tasks that we undertake. On a regular basis we are asked to provide an estimate of our fees, which under the Home Charter Scheme and Solicitors Communication Regulations every solicitor is obliged to do. This is quite a difficult task as it is sometimes impossible to foresee how complicated some matters will be. We can either provide our client with an estimated fixed fee, or we can advise them as to the solicitors’ hourly charge and give an estimate of the approximate time it would take to do the work.
In residential Conveyancing transactions it would be normal practice for the quotation to have a fixed fee as to the amount the solicitor will charge. This is called the Professional Fee. Under the Home Charter Scheme it is a requirement that in a Conveyancing quotation, not only is the Professional Fee shown plus the VAT, but also figures are provided for the various outlays, such as Property Searches, Registration Fees etc., that the solicitor has to obtain in order to complete the conveyance. It is important that these outlays are clearly itemised and properly estimated. We have noticed difficulties where certain firms have inadvertently “not specified an outlay or under estimated the amount that is eventually charged after the transaction has completed”. It is therefore important that if you are seeking a proper estimate from a solicitor that he or she completes the estimate with accurate details, not only of the Professional Fee, VAT and outlays, but also the amount of Stamp Duty, Land Tax and Land Registry fees which may be payable.
It is even harder for a solicitor to provide an estimate in Commercial transactions relating to property. Again in most of these transactions we would normally try to provide a fixed fee estimate for the Professional Fee. If at the outset it would appear that the matter is likely to be more complicated then we would provide an hourly rate for the professional fee and an estimate of the approximate amount of hours that the transaction is likely to take. In most quotations and retaining letters from solicitors, they are permitted to uplift their professional fee, if matters become more complicated and time consuming, as the transaction progresses. However the solicitor should notify the client of any possible increase to the original quote in this instance.
In Court cases quite often fees can be covered by the Legal Services Commission if the client has low means, which is tested, and the case is merited, or if an individual is successful in taking or defending an action then the costs will be recoverable form their opponent. Here again it is very important that the client is made aware of what expenses they are likely to incur at the outset, and the risks which may be involved as in any litigation the costs can be extremely high. As already stated, under the Solicitors Communication Regulations the solicitor has to give an accurate, properly prepared estimate of these fees and it is important that the client is kept updated as the case progresses. This estimate should also include any fees charged by the Courts, which in recent years have increased considerably. The primary concern of a client at the outset of any potential Court proceedings, is whether or not their case is likely to succeed. The experience and quality of the solicitor is paramount in the ability to be able to give good advice and a measured opinion from an early stage.
In the other areas of the law in which we specialise, we also inform our clients, at the outset of any matter, of the approximate fees that they are likely to incur in relation to their instructions. Costs are a big part of dealing with a legal firm, and because of this there is now, readily available, legal expenses insurance. We believe that a lot of clients are not aware that they are able to get insurance to cover legal expenses. It can be included in house insurance and other policies. We would often advise our clients to check their policies to see if they have legal expenses cover, as its availability can obviously make a big difference to the amount of risk a client may be willing to take.
Here at Murray Kelly Moore believe that we provide excellent professional advice to our clients at a reasonable fee. We do not profess to be the cheapest solicitors in Northern Ireland nor are we the most expensive. We strongly believe that good value for money is given by the majority of firms in Northern Ireland but that the cheapest solicitor is not necessarily the best. Our track record of more than half a century speaks for itself, and we feel that we have the depth and experience to assist our clients in what are quite often very difficult and complicated matters. Experience is important, as is reputation. We consider that the quality of our service is fairly reflected in the level of our fees as that is our philosophy in relation to business.