In principle lawyers are at liberty to charge their fees legal and expenses as they think fit. Does this mean that the client is subjected to the lawyers ‘arbitrariness? Certainly not!
The way legal fees and expenses are being assessed is explained here below. On occasions a conflict will arise between the lawyer and his client about the fees charged. Here you will be informed on how such a conflict can be resolved.
A lawyer is entitled to assess by himself the amount of his legal fees. However the Code on Civil Procedure (article 446 ter) obliges the lawyer to assess the amount with due modesty which is expected from his office and which his feenote/bill must reflect. Besides these legal limitations, a lawyer is thus at liberty to determine the way in which he will evaluate his legal fees.
Without being obligatory, three assessment methods are generally applied to fix the amount of the legal fees based on their simplicity and practicality and also on account of the familiarity thereof with the clients.
- Compensation per time unit: this is an amount chargeable (part of an hour) for services rendered
- Compensation based on the importance of the case: this boils down to a percentage of the monetary value of a case
- Compensation based on the type of the case: to wit, a lump sum amount per service or number of services rendered. To a certain extent, this method is becoming obsolete.
The lawyer can also apply another assessment method or a combination of the above mentioned evaluation methods which have to be applied in a reasonable manner. The assessment however can be increased or decreased, depending on the specific aspects of the case such as:
- The solvency of the client
- The urgent nature of the case
- The importance of the case
- The complexity
- The result obtained
- The experience of the lawyer
- The expertise of the lawyer in the particular specific area of the law
- All other relevant additional criteria….
The lawyer is recommended to inform his or her client beforehand about the assessment methodsthat will be handled. It is certainly advisable to make a clear prior agreement between the lawyer and the client on the way the legal fees will be charged.
Apart from the legal fees also the expenses have to be considered. Expenses are being charged to the client separately. Expenses are the amounts incurred by the lawyer on behalf of the client regarding the assigned case.
Expenses can be divided in general overheads and specific charges. Overheads are normally charged on the basis of an office unit which is then multiplied by the number of typed out pages in a specific file. As a non-binding indicative amount of an office unit, an amount of 10 euro per page can be quoted. The specific expenses in a given file are passed on to the client. These expenses concern: transportation and travel expenses, court costs, charges for translation and the like.
The Bar Council organises a mediation procedure which is not obligatory but which can be relied upon on a voluntary basis by the lawyer and by the client in case both parties are in agreement with this method of dispute resolution.
The request is submitted to the Dean of the Bar Association either by formal letter, tele copy (fax) or by an email message.
The mediators, who have received a special training in mediation matters, are appointed by the Bar Council.
The one who relies on the mediation procedure pays a lump sum participation charge of €50 to cover the expenses.
Should an agreement be reached, this will be recorded in the minutes of meeting which are signed by both parties. Failure to reach an agreement will be placed on record of which each party can obtain a copy at its own request.
In view of reaching an amicable solution concerning a legal fees dispute, parties can equally rely on the mediation procedure before the Court of Justice as regulated in article 731 of the Code on Civil Procedure.
Besides that the lawyer as well as the client are entitled to submit their dispute concerning legal fees and charges before a regular Coort of Justice by having a summons taken out.
Prior to rendering a final decision, the Court will presumably order a survey by experts in order to first obtain an opinion on the amount of the legal fees and the way in which the legal fees have been assessed.
Only lawyers who have been authorised by the Bar Council, are entitled to give themselves up at the various Courts as legal experts in the field of legal fees and assessments issues.
In all cases where the Bar Council is involved, either at the request of the Dean of the Bar Association, the lawyer, the client, or the Court, the Bar Council will appoint a taxation committee composed of three of its members.
The ensuing procedure is an adversary procedure and results in the establishment of an evaluation report. Thereafter the Bar Council will take its final decision.