PL-PRACTICE WEEK 14 BILLING AND ACCOUNTS IN PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS
WEEK 14 – BILLING AND ACCOUNTS IN PROPERTY TRANSACTIONS
TYPES OF FEES:
The rate depends on the status of lawyer and other considerations listed in Rule 52(2) RPC like time required, novelty, difficulty of question raised, skill required, loss of employment in other cases occasioned by acceptance, amount involved, contentious or non-contentious matter, etc.
– Fixed Fee: usually for non-contentious specified class of work. LP should not have fixed annual salary to represent any client in court work.
– Appearance Fee: charged per appearance (including cost, transport, etc.)
– Hourly Rate Fee: on hourly rate on amount of hours spent on the job,
– Percentage Fee: percentage of the value involved in the transaction.
– Contingent Fee: based on success in the matter. But it must be reasonable and contract not vitiated by fraud, mistake, undue influence nor contrary to public policy. If litigation, is should be bona fide and not vexatious or frivolous. Contingent fee cannot be charged in criminal cases.
– Scale Fee: calculated according to the scale (I, II and III) set out in the Legal Practitioners (Remuneration for LD&OLM) Order 1991. Charges under scale I and II are fixed and cannot be challenged but scale III should be fair and reasonable (taking into account intricacy, time, intellectual and labour demands of the case, documents prepared, customary charges, etc.
RULES OR PRINCIPLES GUIDING BILLING FOR PROFESSIONAL SERVICES (ON PROPERTY TRANSACTION… NOTE ACTING FOR ONE PARTY; ACTING FOR BOTH PARTIES-IN A MORTGAGE, CONVEYANCE OR LEASE).
Entitle LP to reasonable remuneration but Impose obligation to account Section 15 and 19 LPA in this regard, the Legal Practitioners Remuneration Committee makes Rules (Remuneration for Legal Documentation and Other Land Matters) Order 1991. Also applying are Rule 3, 48 and 49 RPC and Judicial Authorities.
A LP representing both parties to a mortgage, he shall be entitled to Mortgagee’s LP fee and ½ of the Mortgagor’s LP fee.
LP representing both parties in lease would charge Lessor’s LP fee and ½ Lessee’s LP fee.
Lessor’s solicitor is entitled to full charges as computed according to the scale… lessee’s to half.
Scale I: Scale 1 deals with Sales, Purchases and Mortgages.
Scale III: deals with all other legal documentations not covered in Scale I and II. Here the lawyer should charge any fair and reasonable sum after considering; circumstances of the transaction, documents prepared, time and skill expended, amount/value involved, novelty of matter, etc.
EXPLAIN RECOVERY OF PROFESSIONAL FEES AND TAXATION OF FEES: where client defaults in paying lawyer his dues (which is a debt) he is entitled to recover it by court action under Section 16 and 19 LPA provided due process is followed.
First, it is advisable that he persuades, mediates, conciliates, negotiates failing which he can take the litigation option although the latter may strain relationship, be unduly technical and time consuming.
For the litigation option, certain procedures should be followed viz;
– He should prepare, sign and deliver his duly prepared bill of charges (with covering letter stating exactly when payment is due) to his client personally (or in last known address where personal service is impossible) in prescribed form.
– After one month has elapsed and client still defaults (this one month calendar period may be abridged upon application), he can institute an action to recover (by originating process) it in the HC in the town where LP or his client resides carries on business.
The court may order that the bill of charges be taxed by a taxing officer-Aburime v NPA. Also Oyo v Mercantile Bank Nigeria Ltd, Oyekanmi v NEPA.
LP can write off the debt if it consideres it uneconomical to sue the client to recover the fees.
:: STATE THE CONTENTS OF A BILL OF CHARGES: The BOC should detail principal items charged with particulars of such items and dates on which they were incurred. Signature of the LP, Date on which it was issued, Matter to which it relates to and name of Client to which it is being issued and then date. The BOC helps the client know the liability claimed. FBN Plc v Ndoma Egba, Oyekanmi v NEPA, Re A SOLICITOR.
IDENTIFY ETHICAL ISSUES ARISING FROM BILLING AND ACCOUNTS: do not charge illegal or excessive fee, keep proper records and maintain separate bank account for client’s money, not share legal fees with non-lawyer-Rule 3.
Note that a general retainer should not advise or appear in any proceedings detrimental to the interest of the client paying the retainer during the period of the retainer.
 Exparte or on notice if the court directs; to grant, court should be satisfied that counsel delivered bill of charges to client and client is about to do an act which would prevent or delay payment of the bill of charges, charges appears to be proper. Cleint may stall the grant by giving security for payment of the charges as may be specified in the direction.
 May employ the undefended list procedure if the client has agreed to pay for the fee