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22 Jan

ETHICS WEEK 17 REMUNERATION OF LEGAL PRACTITIONERS

WEEK 17: (I) REMUNERATION OF LEGAL PRACTITIONERS; (II) DUTIES OF LAWYER ON CHARGING OF CLIENTS

:: TIT-BITS FOR CHARGING:  No Arbitrary Fees.

:: GUIDE/RULES TO FIXING FEE: a lawyer is entitled to adequate remuneration which should not be illegal or excessiveRule 48 RPC, GTB Plc v Udoka Anyanwu (2011). No lump sum or fixed fee for a particular type of court case-Rule 49. Where no fee is paid, he should submit his bill of charges-Oyo v Mercantile Bank Nig. Ltd. Court can award a reasonable fee in quantum meruit. FBN PLC v Ndoma Egba.

:: RETAINERS: is an agreement by a lawyer to give his service to a client either generally (general retainer) or over a particular matter (special retainer)-Rule 49. He should not advise on or take briefs detrimental to the interest of the client paying his retainer during the period of the retainer.

: Types of Legal Work: Contentious and non-contentious. The guide for charging these are laid down in Rule 44(b) RPC.

:: TYPES OF FEES:

Contingent Fee: paid upon completion of the civil agreement or suit (if suit, it should be bona fide and reasonable and not contrary to public policy). Contingent fee is allowed provided client was advised on its effect and the fee/formula is reasonable and commensurate[1] and not vitiated by fraud, mistake, undue influence or contrary to public policy-Rule 51. Various factors listed in Rule 52(1 and 2) would be taken into account[2].

Fixed Fee: non-negotiable usually charged for non-contentious matters.

Appearance Fee: per appearance including cost, lodging, incidental expenses.

Hourly: criteria is quite intricate.

Percentage Fee: depends on the value of the subject matter and services rendered. May be taxed-FBN Plc v Ndoma Egba.

– Retainer; discussed earlier.

– Scale Fee

:: Note the extent of liability of a lawyer for negligence when he charges fees for a legal work.

:: SCALE OF CHARGES:

– FOR DOCUMENTATION AND NON CONTENTIOUS MATTERS:

For non-contentious matters; (like drafting of instrument, letters, professional advice and so on. The LPR(LD&OLM)O applies. IT is divided into three sections viz;

Scale One: for sale of land and mortgage transactions. (LP who conducted the sale should not charge under this scale where he has already been paid a commission)

Scale two; for leases. Part one of this scale relates to leases below 35 years, part II relates to those that are more. The formula for part one is;

Lessor’s LP gets full and Lessee’s LP gets half. If LP represents both, he gets Full Lessor’s and Half Lessee’s LP fees.

Scale three; other legal documentation and non-contentious work for which no scale of charges is provided. E.g. incorporation, search at land registry, etc. must be fair and reasonable in all circumstance.

:: DIVISION OF FEES. Rule 5.

:: RECOVERY OF CHARGES (SUING FOR FEES): Check Civil Litigation Note.

– RIGHT TO SUE. Check Property Law Practice.

– COMPETENT COURT. Check Civil Litigation Note.

– ASCERTAINING PROPER CHARGES BY THE COURT.

– TAXATION OF BILL OF CHARGES OF A LEGAL PRACTITIONER: upon application of the client (within one month of receiving LP’s Bill of Charges[3]) for legal practitioner’s fees to be reviewed by officer appointed by the court to ascertain propriety of the charge and recommend a more appropriate or deserving fee[4].

Court may order client to give security where before one month period.

Taxation of charges is an interlocutory proceeding to the suit for recovery of charges. Taxation is done in accordance with the LPA and LP(RLDOLM)O.

The amount declared by the taxing officer should be stated in a certificate and filed in the court with parties being entitled to copies of such certificate[5].

– IN CONTENTIOUS BUSINESS: where litigation or other contentious matters, Rule 52(2) RPC is the consideration.

In conclusion; the LP Charging and Remuneration provisions should be made more comprehensible.

:: ETHICAL ISSUES IN CHARGING.

[1] Not too high or low.

[2] Like the Requisite expertise, intricase/novelty of case, time, labour and energy demands, charges by colleagues for similar services, contingency and certainty of compensation, amount of money involved, benefit accruing to the client, etc. these guidelines are also applied in taxation.

[3] Where this period elapses, application would be by motion on notice and affidavit stating reasons for delay then prayer for extension of time and then for taxation of BOC. If application is made after 12 months or after judgment has been given, client would need to show more compelling reasons to justify grant. Once fees have been paid, no suit to tax can be brought after 12 months.

[4] LP clearly particularising the items and cost would facilitate proper assessment.

[5] It appears the party who applied for taxation should be the one to pay costs but if fees declared by TO is lower, LP should pay the difference.

Isochukwu

Quite eccentric really

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