So the question is, how much does a lawyer cost? There are countless variables that come into play when determining how much a lawyer will cost but below we will try and provide clarity into the subject. Depending on where you are located, how you are going to be billed and the type of case/ support you are looking for are all major influences for a change of price.
Generic Legal Costs:
- Generally a lawyer will charge between $250 - $450 per hour for a typical case/ inquiry here in Australia.
- If both parties agree for a divorce and don't have children under the age of 18 then it will usually cost $900 of court fees and doesn't require a lawyer, However it is recommended to seek advice.
- Personal Injury Lawyers will usually cover the legal costs as if there is a payout they will take a moderate cut of it, around 33% - 40%.
- Child custody lawyers can become very expensive and each case is too specific to give an estimate but can range from $1,000 - $30,000 in legal fees. It is very highly recommended you speak to a lawyer in relation to seeing your children.
4 Types of Legal Payment
Here we will cover the 4 main ways in which you can come to an agreement with your lawyer for payment.
A flat fee rate is where you pay a lawyer a set amount for the services they have provided. This usually happens when you require simple legal support such as writing a contract for a business or having a will set up. Depending on what agency you go to will drastically vary the cost of their services such as when a will is written, for nearly the same quality, one firm might charge $350 while the other can go into the thousands.
This one is straight forward where the lawyer charges a set hourly fee. The total cost of the lawyer will depend on what tasks were required to be done and how long it takes to complete. It may end up cheaper to hire a more expansive lawyer if it takes them less time to complete the task. It is highly recommended that you ask for a written estimate and be kept up to date with the fees as hours can rack up quickly and it gives you can idea of what you final bill is.
When a lawyer is on retainer it means you pay an upfront fee as a down payment and a lawyer will provide work and charge based off those expenses. You won't usually pay a lawyer straight out however as the money will be put into a trust account where only once the lawyer provides legal assistance/ advice will they charge money from the account.
When you pay a lawyer through contingency fees it is when you come to an agreement that creates no out of pocket expenses for yourself and your lawyer only gets paid if you win. While yes this is risky for a lawyer it encourages them to receive the largest settlement possible as quickly as possible.
Usually you will know a lawyer is offering payment through contingency fees when they claim "No win, No Fees". Most commonly found with personal injury lawyers as payouts can be considerably large and can charge a serious percentage of the win (Anywhere from 33% - 40% and above).
Why are lawyers so expensive?
Have you ever heard that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in a field of study? While we're not claiming this is true, we do understand that becoming a lawyer is a life long commitment and takes years of training to perfect your craft.
A typical legal degree takes 4-5 years to complete, that is just to start your training as a lawyer. To then become credible and recognised will then take around another 5 years to climb the ladder. Once this is done most of the time when a lawyer needs to go to court they have to fight for their client against another lawyer/ team who has also perfected their craft making the job very time consuming and stressful.
So even though a lawyer charges $400 per hour there's a lot of unpaid research going on in the background to allow them to charge such fees.
How Much do Contracts Cost?
When starting your own business it's not uncommon to become overwhelmed with the amount of paperwork that is needed just to get it all going. This includes all the contracts you will need to start turning over a dollar.
- Employee Contracts:
- Terms of business
- Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA)
- Share Certificate
- Website terms & conditions of use
- Business Lease Agreement
- Credit Card Authorisation Form
Most of these you are able to do by yourself and are able to find quality templates online for free, it sometimes is just easier to go to your lawyer and have them made up to also allow for piece of mind.
Usually a basic contract in Australia will set you back between $300 - $1000 depending on how in-depth you require said contract to be. A lawyer/ firm won't charge as much for a stock contract they would use for everyone and just change the name (Usually taking just over a hour) while prices quickly increase in relation to the complexity and pages.
Cheaper isn't Always Better
Nearly every lawyer and firm have their area of expertise. There is no point going to the best family law firm that specialises in divorce and child custody with a criminal assault charge. Look around and ask exactly what legal matters a firm usually deals with.
You'll find that when you start shopping around many lawyers and firms will charge such different prices for seemingly the same help and outcome that its hard to compare, especially when they include 'free' unrelated goods and services.
Understand your legal issue
Before you go straight to looking for a legal professional, first you should do some research to understand what problem you face a whether it's possible to deal with it yourself. Usually the first step to dealing with a problem you're facing is possible without a lawyer such as if someone is not paying you and the normal procedure is to provide a letter of demand. You are able to do this without the assistance of a lawyer and the're templates online.
The Most Common Type of Plan
Hourly rates would be the most common arrangement of payment in the legal industry as each case can become very specific and a difference in cost per hour will depend on the skill and ability of your legal team. Costing anywhere from $80 per hour into the thousands and will depend on the work required. Smaller towns/ suburbs are also usually cheaper than larger cities especially within the CBD. A law firm might also offer sliding scale legal fee payment options, where depending on your average household income will determine how much a firm will charge.
Picking a Payment Option
Usually it can go either way where you pick a payment plan before you know the total cost of a lawyer such as during a personal injury claim (where a legal firm will offer a no win no fee option) or once you understand the total costs you can ask to make payments in a certain way.
How Much does a Family Lawyer Cost in Australia?
How expansive is a family lawyer?
Depending on where you go to hire a lawyer and if it is just for advice or to be represented in court will drastically vary the cost of hiring a family lawyer. Usually, an average cost of a family lawyer her in Australia will start from $250 -$450 per hour. This doesn't include how some lawyers might offer the first hour free or include a sliding scale.
Australian Court Cost:
The table below only covers the Application fees for court costs while there are also costs for appeal fees and hearing fees and setting down fees. The information for these forms can be found on the family court website.
Name/ Form #
Fees as of(01/07/2018) Cheapest to most expensive
Issue Subpoena (Form 14)
Interim Order Application (Form 2)
Application for Consent Orders (Form 11)
Response to Initiating Application (Form 1A)
Initiating Application (Form 1)
$345 (Parenting OR Financial, Final Only)
Initiating Application (Form 1)
$565 (Parenting AND Financial, Final Only)
Application for Divorce (Form 3)
Application for Nullity (Form 1)
Application for Declaration as to Validity (Form 1)
These prices were set by the Australian family Court system as of the 1st of July 2018 and are subject to change, please be sure to check their website to ensure the fees are the same. Depending on your situation and position you may be eligible for a fee reduction or even exemption, speak with your lawyer or call up the family court specific to your state.
When should i hire a family lawyer?
The good thing about the Australian legal system is that it has been designed with low income persons/ families in mind. So you wont always need to hire a lawyer straight away. But here are a few signs for when you really should consider getting legal advice from your lawyer.
- You're being bullied - By this we mean a disgruntled partner or ex is threatening such ideas as "You won't see the kids again" or "You won't get any money". Unfortunately this happens often enough to be a problem and can drastically effect a persons emotional stability. Hiring a lawyer at this time will help you understand if these threats have any substance or are just attempts to manipulate.
- Document Filing - Legal documents can be difficult to write/ fill in especially when the information is important and a wrong word could lead to extra expenses and time lost.
- Long term savings - Hiring the proper lawyer for the job can be the difference between paying a large amount of child support/ alimony and maybe even paying none at all.
- Piece of mind - While we can't guarantee a stress free time when dealing with legal issues, it defiantly helps you deal with the daily stresses. Knowing you are getting the right information straight away provides clarity and piece of mind.
Uniform Law in Western Australia
Set to come into effect on the 1st of July 2020, uniform law in the legal industry of Western Australia is designed to harmonises legal practice under one system. Below we will cover just the benefits to consumers.
- Legal costs must be fair and reasonable,
- A legal practice must provide a fair estimate of the entire legal costs and assist their clients in making informed decisions about costs and their options,
- A legal practice must avoid any unnecessary delay in the results of increased costs
- Principals of law practices are responsible for the legal costs charged,
- provide a low cost way to resolve cost disputes with law practices and
- provide access to pro-bono legal services with more flexible practicing entitlements.
The misuse of the title "Principal" by legal practitioners who are not said principles under the new 'Uniform Law' my be classed as misleading to confuse either courts, customers or other members of the legal profession.
Do Unions Pay for legal fees?
Usually when you are apart of a union you have access to discounted legal advice and support. Offering consultations and personal injury assistance through their preferred legal firm.
What Happens if you don't Hire a Lawyer?
The short answer being 'it depends'.
With the long answer being, there is enough legal material out there in the world than there ever has been before and the ability to access this information is quick and relatively easy. As long as you do your research into what needs to be done, who you need to speak/ inquire too and do it by a set date or time frame then usually you will be fine.
However, issues do arise when you don't pay close attention to these expectations such as without legal representation you could very quickly miss a submission date for time sensitive legal documents or not know where exactly to submit them. This can cause delays and increase court costs, even causing a ruling to not be in your favour.
The information in these pages is intended to be a general guide only. The information is not intended to constitute professional or legal advice, and you should rely on your own inquiries and assessment. ThePerthLawyer expressly disclaims any and all liability for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information in these pages.