We understand that you want to know about fees upfront and we’re happy have that conversation with you. The purpose of this page is to share our philosophy about fees with you.
Lawyers have a reputation for being “expensive” and ”sticker shock” astonishment and dismay at an unexpectedly high price is very common. Lawyers are also known for average service, delays and communicating in “legalese” complex technical language instead of good personal communication with their clients.
We work hard to avoid cost surprises by talking with you about fees upfront and whenever disputes or complexity arise.
If you could provide a fixed price on all conveyancing would be appreciated. I am on a strict budget.
Thank you, Margaret.”
Our (lightly modified) response:
Thank you for your email and we hear your concern for legal fees.
We want to know good, professional people who want to build relationships with us and our families and friends for the next decades by giving us great value, instead of taking as much as they can from us and moving on to the next client. You’re only going to recommend us to your people if you’re satisfied with how we treat you, the quality of the work we do for you and the price we ask in exchange for that good work. That’s a big part of our business model. We’ll give you great value and we’ll let you know if complications come up and expected costs to resolve them. Then it’s up to you. It’s your money and we won’t spend it without your permission.
Did you know that the Queensland law firm insurer advises that conveyancing is one of the highest risk / claim areas of law? More claims than litigation, personal injury, family law and insurance law. How can that be? Why is buying or selling a property risky? What goes wrong?
It’s partly because there are many parties, agreements and (legal) relationships in a conveyance. Property transactions often involve ”small” relative to the whole property price deposits (eg 5% deposit = 20 x leverage) which means that people are handling unfamiliar often leading to emotional volatility / sleep loss amounts of money.
There are also a lot of moving parts. The quality of our own actions is often in our control if we’re fed, well-rested and not “fearful or greedy” but most of the parties are outside of our control. Usually they are strangers motivated at best by their own self-interest in an adversarial watch your own back legal system.
It would be easy to budget and plan if everyone was always agreeable and realistic. That changes fast when big money is involved and people are greedy or stressed. Some people are just plain difficult or volatile or spiteful; some stakeholders are too large to care and that’s outside anyone else’s control. The simple and cost-effective solution we’d prefer might just not be on the table.
That atmosphere of stressed buyers and sellers blindly struggling for their own self-interest in unfamiliar transactions can bring out the worst in people and lead to sudden, urgent and volatile disputes.
Those are some reasons why conveyancing is one of the highest legal insurance claim areas. Other reasons could be lack of good quality control systems and delegating work down to inexperienced people who may also not know why conveyances can be risky or how to set them up as safely as possible.”
Kind regards, Jamie McDiarmid
We took care of Margaret (not their real name) and she was so happy with Clearman Lawyers she left us a five star Google review.
There is nothing wrong with “Fixed Fees” as long as clients are clearly told what work that the “Fixed Fee” really gets them. “Fixed fees” generally only include very specific, limited work for that fee. It often won’t cover many of the common issues which arise on the way to the ultimate objective.
“Fixed Fee” is a great marketing concept. Show a low “fixed” figure to get the client onboard and then rely on the fine printFixed Fee only includes ‘abc’ and excludes ‘xyz’ to upsell them when, for example, common conveyancing complications arise.
My mechanic gives me a ”quote” lawyers normally call them estimates for my car service. That’s to check everything over and let me know if anything’s wrong. But I don’t expect them to buy me new brakes and install them for free. What I do expect is that they call me to tell me how the car looks and ask me, before doing the work, if I want to go ahead with any repairs I might need. Clearman Lawyers won’t fix your brakes, but we can communicate with you clearly and early to let you know what’s happening, talk about costs in a human way and ask you how you want to move forward.
Why are Lawyers so expensive?
A law firm is a risk shop. Our clients come to us with challenging and stressful situations because they can’t work their way through them safely. Often they’ve already tried but can’t get clarity on what’s happened or what’s been agreed. There’s too much on the line often including life changing risk, money or opportunity and they are on unfamiliar ground. People just don’t go to lawyers for help with simple situations which are totally safe and certain. That wouldn’t make sense.
We have experience and good tools to carefully look at the client situation, work out the danger(s) and then help the client through whatever minefield they bring to us. Even with years of experience, a minefield is still a minefield and missteps can have catastrophic consequences. What would you charge to be a professional guide through a minefield?
Good fit to work together
People who have unrealistic expectations that unexpected issues or disputes can’t happen or will be included in a small “Fixed Fee” are unlikely to be a good fit for Clearman Lawyers.
Let’s be transparent with each other. Like you, we expect to be paid to do good work properly. We can provide you with fixed fees only if you can guarantee that nothing will change or go wrong. But the whole reason we need lawyers is because we recognise that there can be expensive issues and we want to have a really good chance of avoiding them, now and down the track.
Our clients want a good law firm that is honest and upfront about fees. We’re not a good fit for clients who have unrealistic expectations that nothing ever goes wrong or that someone should do good work for free.
What do you want?
You want clarity about an opportunity or a problem. It’s outside of your usual areas of competence. It might involve unfamiliar or conflicted relationships or a lack of trust. It might involve documents, opportunities, amounts of money, investments or complexity which make you uncomfortable. There’s some real chance that it could get out of control, make a situation worse or cost a lot of money. You want help to measure the important issues and control / manage the risk exposure where you can.
You also want good value. Because it’s unfamiliar you may not exactly know how much that kind of help costs and whether you can trust anyone to help you. You want to avoid the ”sticker shock” astonishment and dismay at an unexpectedly high price of an unexpected lawyer’s bill and usual poor communication that goes with it.
My dad always says to get three quotes so shopping around is probably the best idea here. Be on your guard if one of the quotes is much cheaper than the others because it might be a ‘down payment’ on an upsell product. Why would an effective lawyer happily do great work for half price?
How much does a simple “XYZ” cost??
We hear that question every day. People ask this question partly because they want things to be simple and cost-effective. We love a good bargain too.
Simpler legal processes are easier to price because they are similar. Disputes, negotiations and disagreements between stressed and unhappy people are harder to price because they are surprisingly different.
When we’re buying complex services but think we’re buying simple services, it’s tricky and easy to get disappointed. Often you’ll see legal estimates as a range. The lower dollar value assumes everything goes well and then the other part is for when something goes wrong. Just like your mechanic, there a basic price for a service and then there’s the conversation if problems arise and you decide what you want to do next. We assume that you want to know about the second part before you are bound to the transaction.
It’s the high-stakes situations themselves and then how the parties respond to that pressure that create complications. Assuming that everything is going to be simple lulls people into a false sense of security and inadequate research and preparation. Hope is important but it’s not a strategy.
This page is not intended to provide legal advice and does not create a client-lawyer relationship. This post is provided for general information purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. If you need help with legal advice for your particular situation, please contact our office (details below or on ‘Contact’ page) and we’ll be happy to assist you.