The dangers of fixed price quotes
Everybody wants certainty in this world.
The trend in most things over the last decade has been for people to want fixed pricing.
The difficulty with such things as legal services is that you never really know the size of the job when the matter begins.
Some simple things like basic house conveyancing, Wills and Powers of Attorney, can be done on a fixed price. Others cannot, and you should be aware of the questions you should ask before proceeding with each type.
Simple matters: Wills, Conveyancing etc
Costs of conveyancing vary wildly from firm to firm. Be assured that you get what you pay for.
- Ask questions about seniority of the people who will be acting on your file and what searches will be done.
- Ask whether you will get a copy of the searches and an explanation of the search results.
- Ask whether perusal of your mortgage documents from your bank is included in the conveyancing price.
- Ask whether unqualified staff or junior staff will be acting on your conveyance.
- Ask about the systems and procedures in place to ensure that nothing is missed on your file.
At Bennett Carroll Solicitors, you get more than you pay for. Senior staff, search results explained in an all inclusive price, no unqualified staff, and a complete management system to ensure nothing is missed on your file.
More complex matters
There are perils for you however with fixed pricing on many other matters. Commercial agreements, disputes, estates and family law work all present dangers for you in fixed price quoting.
The problem with seeking a fixed price for these types of matters is that you will encounter one of several scenarios:-
The law firm that refuses to give you any kind of estimate or scope for the job. This is actually improper. By law, all firms are supposed to give you some kind of estimate of the cost of the job at the commencement. Though this is difficult, it is a requirement and you should insist upon it. A range between $0 and $100,000, is not a proper estimate.
The law firm that gives you a low quote to begin with, only to shift the posts on you at a later stage. This is one of the most common problems with demanding fixed prices. The law firm in question cannot accurately and properly give you a fixed price because of the large number of variables out of the control of both you and the law firm.
- behaviour of your opponent and other players
- the amount of time (both excessively long or excessively short), it might take to resolve the matter,
- any circumstances or information unforeseen or not provided to us or to you.
- some unscrupulous firms will get you in with a very low fixed price, only to renege on it once you’ve committed to them.
- The law firm which gives you a fixed price, and then once your matter becomes unviable, because the price was too low, pushes the file off to the most junior staff member, and doesn’t act vigorously to finalise it.
By far and away, the best option for engaging a law firm is to:
- Seek a firm that will only charge you for the work that it does
- Get a clear written engagement agreement which shows what you pay for and how it is calculated
- Get a full descriptive Scope of Works for the size of the job with an estimate for each step of the way
- Seek regular small bills (setting an amount for each invoice if you can, and monitor the invoices vs the estimate you have received
- This way, you take control of the cost of your matter, and can manage whether the costs are matching the estimate you have received. You also have the ability to stop work on the file if it is getting out of hand, and demand that work proceed quickly