Understanding the Law
October 5, 2007
Lawyers’ fees

The issue of fees charged by lawyers has always been a sore spot between lawyers and clients, and has often been the subject of humour by members of the public. No one ever budgets for lawyers’ fees, and perhaps for those persons who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, it comes unexpectedly and as an added burden.{{more}}

Lawyers’ fees and other expenses

In addition to the lawyers’ fees are other expenses which, depending on the type of matter, include VAT, filing fees, cost for expert witnesses, cost for service of documents and government stamp duties. These could somehow inflate the payment to the lawyer, as it is the lawyer who collects these from his clients to pay for the relevant services. There is no doubt that litigation is expensive. In SVG, litigation between family members is very common, and in many cases it involves claims for land.

The Bar Fees

The Bar Association has circulated a list of fees for the guidance of lawyers. The fees for work such as conveyance, non-contentious probate, company matters and consultation are included on the list. Lawyers are paid for consultation according to years of experience, so that you would pay at a higher hourly rate for the services of a QC than that of his junior. There is not a formal system of legal aid provided by government for indigent persons, but there are lawyers who would provide the same for deserving persons. Many of the users, especially of Family Court services, are the ones who are considered for assistance.

Court costs

Then there are the costs that are ordered by the Court. There are costs attached to every stage of the proceedings up to the trial of the matter. A party may apply to the court to set a cost budget at or before the first case management. The party who wins in a matter may be able to retrieve his costs, while the loser would bear his own expenses, as well as the expenses for the successful party. These costs are given in the New Civil Procedure Rules. However, it is not unusual for the judge to urge the parties to decide on costs. The party who loses can appeal his matter, but then this is another added cost.

Fees in Criminal matters

Unlike civil matters, there are no stipulated costs in criminal matters, and costs depend on the arrangements between client and lawyers. Those who are tried for murder could arrange privately to pay their lawyers. If the accused is unable to do so, the government pays a lawyer to conduct his defence.

Mediation as an option to the formal court proceedings

Quite recently, mediation has been made available by the court, and it is given as an option, especially in family matters in the Civil Court. There is a team of trained mediators from which the parties can choose. If the parties are unable to choose a mediator, then the court will allocate one. Mediation is cheaper than court, litigation, but if the parties want to have their day in court, there is nothing that will prevent them from doing so. At case management level, the Master has a duty to encourage the parties to resolve their matter through mediation, if appropriate, and to facilitate the use of the procedure.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: [email protected]