21 August 2017

How do I pay a barrister?

Some of the most common questions people have about barristers are to do with fees and costs. It can sometimes be confusing how a barrister will be paid and what they will charge you for. The most important thing to know is that you are allowed to ask questions. If there is anything you do not understand about how you are going to be charged, talk to your solicitor or barrister about it.

How much will a barrister cost?

How will I be charged?

What is "client money" and why can a barrister not hold it?

When does a barrister need to be paid?

What items can I expect to see on my bill from a barrister?

What if I cannot afford a barrister?

When is someone eligible for legal aid?

 

How much will a barrister cost?


There is no standard amount that a barrister will charge. Barristers are allowed to set their own prices for their services. It is up to you to decide whether you think the price is reasonable, and whether you want to hire that particular barrister. If you are using the public access scheme, you may need to talk to more than one barrister to see what different prices are available.

When you instruct a barrister, they should make it clear to you at the outset how you will be charged, what it will cost and who will pay. If it is not clear you should ask your barrister further questions to make sure you know what the charges will be.

 

How will I be charged?


A barrister should discuss the way you will be charged, and if it is not clear you should ask for more information. There are a number of ways a barrister can charge for their services:

  • Fixed fee- this is when a barrister considers how much work they will have to do for you and how much this will cost. The barrister then gives you an overall amount that you will need to pay for the work they are doing.
  • Hourly rate- this is when a barrister will have a set rate they charge for each hour of work they do for you. They will then keep track of how many hours of work they have done for you, and this will be the final cost.
  • Conditional fee arrangement- this is when how much you need to pay will depend on whether you win your case. For example, the agreement may be that if you do not win, you do not have to pay the barrister, or you may have to pay a smaller fixed amount and only need to pay the rest if you win.

The Legal Ombudsman (LEO) has written a guide on what you should ask your lawyer about costs. The guide can be found on LEO's website.

 

What is "client money" and why can a barrister not hold it?


"Client money" is money held by a lawyer on behalf of a client. Solicitors' firms have client accounts where clients can pay in money in a way similar to a bank account, and that money is held for them by the firm. Solicitors' firms have protections in place to ensure that this money is not misused. They also have a compensation fund that will pay for any money a client loses. Barristers do not have the same protections in place and are not allowed to hold money in this way.

 

When does a barrister need to be paid?


This depends on the way you are being charged and what has been agreed with your barrister. Usually, a barrister needs to be paid 30 days after they send out their invoice. But this may not always be the case. It is best to discuss when you will need to pay with your barrister or solicitor when you first instruct them to do work for you.

 

What items can I expect to see on my bill from a barrister?


Some common items you may see on a bill from your barrister include:

  • Attendance at court
  • Attendance at meetings or conferences
  • Drafting documents
  • Correspondence
  • Travel
  • Disbursements (this covers things such as a barrister paying to instruct an expert on a part of your case).

Barristers are required to keep records of the fees they charge and what they were for. You have the right to see these records.  If you are unsure about what a charge on your bill is for, your barrister should be able to provide you with information on what you have been charged for and why.

 

What if I cannot afford a barrister?


If you cannot afford a barrister, there are certain types of cases where you may be able to get legal aid. Legal aid means that the government will help you to meet the costs of legal advice and/or representation in a court or tribunal. More information can be found under the question "When is someone eligible for legal aid?" below.

The Bar Pro Bono Unit can also provide you with legal help if you cannot afford to pay. However, you will need to be referred to them by an advice agency such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, a Law Centre, your local MP  or a Legal Advice Clinic, so it would be best to speak to one of these organisations first. You can find more information about the Bar Pro Bono Unit on their website

 

When is someone eligible for legal aid?


To be able to get legal aid, you will usually need to be able to show that:

  • your case is eligible for legal aid;
  • the problem is serious;
  • you cannot afford to pay for legal costs.

The kind of situations you could get legal aid for include where:

  • you or your family are at risk of abuse or serious harm;
  • you are at risk of losing your home;
  • you have been accused of a crime, face prison or detention;
  • you are being discriminated against.

You will usually need to show that you cannot afford to pay for this help. You may have to pay some money towards the legal costs of your case or pay costs back later.

You can find more information on legal aid and how to apply on the gov.uk website

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