The American Bar Association advises that lawyers explain their fees, preferably in writing, within a reasonable time after beginning to represent you. And some state bars require that lawyers put their fees in writing before they take a case. Your lawyer may charge you extra for copying documents, courier services, court filing fees, or research services.
Be sure you understand what you will be charged for and how much. Remember the most expensive lawyer is not necessarily the best one for you. Nor is a "bargain" rate always a great deal. Look for the best balance of experience and cost. You may want to ask your lawyer if a junior lawyer or paralegal can perform some of the work to lower your costs.
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You also may want to ask if there are tasks you could perform yourself to save time and money. For example, you might be able to copy, pick up or deliver certain documents.
A lawyer may charge you a flat fee for a particular service or offer alternative methods of payment. Each has benefits and risks. Contingency fees. A contingent fee arrangement means that your lawyer gets a percentage of whatever money you receive as resolution of your case. If you receive no money, then your lawyer collects no fees. However, you may owe charges for court fees, copying, and hiring expert witnesses. If you have very little money to pay hourly fees, it may be appropriate to negotiate a contingency fee with your lawyer. But before agreeing to a contingent fee, consider that:.
Flat fee. You pay the lawyer a set dollar amount for a particular service, like writing a will. If the matter is simple and straightforward, say, an uncontested divorce or a simple bankruptcy filing, many lawyers often charge a flat fee. Be sure to find out exactly what the flat fee includes. Hourly rates. The lawyer charges a set fee per hour. Your final cost will depend on how long it takes to complete your work. Hourly rates vary according to a lawyer's expertise and experience. An experienced lawyer may charge a higher hourly rate but may complete the work more quickly.
Because the hours worked on your case can add up quickly, you should ask for a written estimate of the number of hours necessary to complete your case to get an idea of what your final bill might amount to.
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Your lawyer may ask you to pay a fee up front. A lawyer can use this fee — often called a retainer — as a down payment on expenses and fees. It is important to review your account from time to time to understand how your money is being spent.
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- Being Your Own Lawyer?
Public Legal Services. Depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for free or low cost legal services through special organizations. For example, you may be eligible for free representation in landlord-tenant or divorce cases. Look in your local telephone directory for legal services organizations or legal clinics associated with accredited law schools. Pre-paid legal plans. Some organizations offer pre-paid legal plans that work like an insurance policy. In exchange for a monthly fee, you receive certain legal services as you need them.
However, the fees charged and the services covered vary with each state's law and the particular plan. Check out any plan carefully to be sure you know what's covered and whether it makes sense for your situation. Chances are your lawyer will ask you for documents that relate to your case. Keep copies if you give your lawyer the originals. Ask for copies of all other important documents.
When you get a bill from your lawyer, review it carefully and ask about any charges that are unclear to you. In a class action, a court decides that a group of people — a class — may have been harmed in a similar way. You may receive notices asking whether you want to be part of the lawsuit. Read the notice carefully. If you take no action, you typically become a member of the class by default. If that's the case, you are bound by the outcome of the class action lawsuit; you can't bring your own case; and you won't have direct control of the lawsuit.
But you could raise some objections about any settlement or the amount of the attorney's fees. Should you choose not to become a member of the class, you preserve the right to bring your own case and control it directly. But you'll have to hire — and pay for — your own lawyer and you won't share in any benefits that may be won in the class action.
If you're not happy with the work your lawyer has performed on your behalf, you may fire him or her at any time. In some kinds of cases, you may need the permission of a judge to do this. Weigh the costs and benefits of starting over with a new lawyer. Your case may be delayed and could cost you more.
Regulation of lawyers must be within the context of ensuring the purposes of the Act are met:. The Law Society is required to administer rules which outline the way in which lawyers must act in providing legal services and dealing with their clients. Every lawyer is expected to be familiar with these rules. This establishes procedures and systems for managing complaints by clients and others when they believe their lawyer has failed to meet the required standards.
Once you have been admitted as a barrister and solicitor you are not able to immediately set up practice on your own.
There are rules governing the experience required by lawyers who have a direct say in the conduct or operation of any legal practice. As regulator of the legal profession, the Law Society must be satisfied that anyone wanting to practise on own account is qualified to do so.
The decision takes into account your legal experience, how you intend to practise, the fields of law in which you will practise, and any other relevant matters. Anyone wanting to practice on own account must have 3 years' fulltime legal experience in New Zealand during the 5 years before they commence practice on own account. They are also required to complete a Stepping Up course within the past two years. The Stepping Up course comprises hours of self-directed learning, followed by a two and a half day workshop.
Anyone intending to be a sole practitioner with a trust account must also complete the New Zealand Law Society Trust Account Supervisor training programme. Find out more. The fact that you're reading this guide means you are either through or well on the way through most of the steps required to becoming a lawyer. These are the requirements for law graduates of New Zealand universities.
There are special requirements for law graduates from other countries.
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The main requirements are set out in the Professional Examinations in Law Regulations A completion certificate from the Council after completion of a professional legal studies course remains valid for 3 calendar years from the date of issue. If you haven't been admitted to the bar within this period, the Council has a discretion to require you to complete further training, which could include a requirement to complete the professional legal studies course again reg 11, Professional Examinations in Law Regulations The Council will also check the age of your LLB or law degree when you apply for a certificate of completion.
If this is more than 10 years old at the time of application, the Council has the power to require further study or training. While times vary, the following table is provided as a guide to a "normal" progression through the steps required to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. You should apply for this as soon as possible. When you have completed your professional legal studies course, you will receive a letter confirming that you have passed the course.
You are then able to apply for the completion certificate. Forms and details are given at www. As part of the process of getting admitted to the High Court as an enrolled barrister and solicitor, you need to obtain a certificate of character from the Law Society. This certifies that you are a "fit and proper person" to be admitted as a barrister and solicitor. You apply to any Law Society branch for a certificate of character. Normally it will take about 3 months for your request to be processed, investigated and completed. However, you should allow 4 months if you have a criminal conviction, have ever been adjudicated bankrupt, or if there is some other matter which might be relevant such as having appeared before a disciplinary body of a university in New Zealand or overseas or having been convicted of an offence overseas.
You must pay a fee to the Law Society when you apply for a certificate of character. A copy of the receipt you receive must be attached to the affidavit which will accompany your application for admission. A criminal conviction, bankruptcy or other factors do not automatically mean that you will not be granted a certificate of character. Every case has its own unique circumstances and these are taken into account. However, if you deliberately do not disclose any of these details, you are showing that you may not be a fit and proper person. If this failure to disclose emerges in the future you may find you are jeopardising your whole legal career.
You will be required to complete the relevant sections of the Request for a criminal conviction history by a third party form. Please note this form is specific to the Law Society and must be used. If you have a conviction, please ensure that your referees are aware and comment on these in any reference supplied. Please also provide the police summary and the Court sentencing notes, if available along with an explanation in your own words.
Note that the Criminal Records Clean Slate Act confers certain rights on all New Zealanders regarding certain criminal convictions. You are not expected to give up these rights and to disclose information which you are protected from giving by the Act. The partially completed form should be provided to the Law Society branch where you intend making your application. Branch staff will complete the third party details and send it to the Ministry of Justice with a request that they provide the information directly to the Law Society as soon as possible. If you have a current conviction, please provide the form along with your application for a certificate of character to the branch as soon as applications open.
Check the timeline on the Law Society website. If you have ever been adjudicated bankrupt you must ask the Official Assignee to provide an original of the bankruptcy notice and a Discharge of Bankruptcy if applicable directly to the Law Society branch where you are making your application.
You will also be required to provide an explanation of the bankruptcy. The Law Society may request further information. You are required to obtain a minimum of three referee reports, one of which must be from your employer unless you have never been in permanent employment.
These reports must be completed on the form provided. Members of your family may not act as referees, nor university lecturers or tutors unless they are acquainted with you or your family outside the university or have been your employer. The Law Society branch where you apply will make inquiries from the tertiary institutions where you have studied, as well as the director of the professional training institute from which you completed the Professional Legal Studies course.
The branch also has the discretion to advertise your name in media. Applications are always advertised in LawPoints, the Law Society's weekly e-newsletter. The advertisement gives the full name of everyone who has applied for a certificate of character and the appropriate legislative provision. This is followed by the statement: "Comments concerning the suitability of any of the above-named applicants for the certificate or approval being sought should be made in writing to me by [deadline].
Any submissions should be given on the understanding that they may be disclosed to the candidate. Any person wishing to comment on your conduct and fitness may do so directly to the Law Society Registry manager or the branch within the time specified. If the Law Society branch feels it might decline to issue you with a certificate of character, it will refer your application to the Law Society's Practice Approval Committee.
Can I File a Lawsuit Without a Lawyer
You will be advised of this and how the process will be managed from this point forward. If you are refused a certificate of character, you may still apply to the High Court for admission. However, if your application for admission does not include a certificate of character, you must serve a copy on the Law Society within two days of filing your application in the High Court see rule 6, Lawyers and Conveyancers Act Lawyers Admission Rules Within 21 days of receiving the copy of your application, the Law Society will serve on you a notice of opposition which states the grounds on which the application is opposed and includes any affidavits in support.
The High Court will hear and determine your application.
How to Be Your Own Lawyer
You are responsible for ensuring that all documentation is provided to the relevant Law Society branch office in time. When all the documentation is complete and the relevant fee is paid, the branch will process your application and issue you if successful with a certificate of character. You should then file your certificate of character along with the other admission documents in the High Court.
Check the admissions information for details. A lawyer who holds a current practising certificate must move your admission to the bar. If you do not know anyone who will do this, contact the local New Zealand Law Society branch.
There's a lot here to look forward to
The branch will be happy to arrange counsel to move your admission. Retired or non-practising lawyers may apply for a temporary practising certificate, and information on the requirements for this is available here. The form of the paperwork required for admission is specified in the Schedule to the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act Lawyers: Admission Rules An application for admission must include an originating application made by the counsel who moves the admission Form LA1.
The application must also include an affidavit in support, sworn by the candidate Form LA2. If you are unsure how to arrange this, the local New Zealand Law Society branch will assist. The affidavit in support must have the following attached:.