September 29, 2015
September 29, 2015


A3bA man runs into an attorney’s office. “What do you charge for three questions?”

“R1 000” replies the attorney. “Is that not a bit steep?” asks the man. “Yes, now what was your third question?”


When you find yourself at an attorney’s office, you’re there because you have a problem. Something has happened or something needs to happen and you need assistance to protect your legal rights. More than likely, this is your last resort.

It is important to realise that working with an attorney comes at a price, sometimes a very high price. Cheaper does not necessarily mean better when it comes to your legal representation. A senior, experienced or specialised attorney will more likely be able to resolve a matter, however complex, easier and possibly quicker.

The indispensable point of departure is that an attorney (or advocate) has one thing to sell to you and that is his or her time.

When browsing for legal services, always ask attorneys to explain their fee and billing structure to you. During your first consultation, get a fee arrangement in writing and remember that the Attorney’s Act states that you are entitled to a detailed itemised bill of costs at all times.

Attorneys are entitled to request a deposit from you to cover the first consultation and initial disbursements. Hereafter, be prepared to be charged for every minute of your attorney’s time spent on your file. Reply to an e-mail? Yes.  A phone call? Definitely!

Time is money in this business and you as a client need to understand how you can assist in keeping your legal bill as low as possible:

  1. Your first consultation with your attorney is very important, sometimes, the only consultation you will need to have. Provide clear and concise instructions, keep to the point and be prepared, bring all the necessary documents with you.
  2. At all times when consulting or corresponding with your attorney, keep the communication short and to the point! Every time your attorney has to read a 17 page e-mail dealing with non-essential matters you are paying for that time spent;
  3. Do not arrange consultations with your attorney that are not absolutely necessary, if a query can be clarified over the phone or over e-mail rather follow that route and save time (and money);

By adhering to the points outlined, you should reach a satisfied outcome without surprising legal costs.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

Written by Kestrel Carstens, Candidate Attorney, MHI Attorneys.

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