How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?

At Black Bear Legal I endeavour to go out of my way to ensure you understand your legal costs upfront and before you start engaging us to do any work for you.

Indeed, the last thing I want is to have a client complain about their costs because it means they have not found value in the legal services I have provided to them, which is always my goal.

We have previously published answers to 10 Questions to Ask Your Lawyer on Legal Costs which provides you more details on our billing practices.

Hourly Fee for a Lawyer

My time (as Lawyer/Director) spent on your legal matter is charged to you at $440 per hour (including GST) and is charged on a time-basis such that you will be charged in 6-minute intervals with six minutes being the minimum interval recorded for legal services. For example, the time charged for an attendance of up to six minutes will be 1-unit ($44) and the time charged for an attendance between six and twelve minutes will be 2-units ($88).

Here is what we don’t charge clients for:

  • We DO NOT charge an extra percentage as an ‘uplift fee’ on top of our hourly fee.
  • We DO NOT charge an extra percentage for showing ‘care and consideration’ on top of our hourly fee.
  • We DO NOT charge an extra for small incidental things like ‘postage and petties’, photocopying, telephone call charges, photocopying etc, on top of our hourly fee.
  • We DO NOT charge you an hourly fee for travel time if we have to attend any Court for you.
  • We DO NOT charge you any fee for general administration of your matter.

An hourly charge is not the only way we calculate fees, for certain matters and in certain circumstances, we offer a fixed fee for a matter or a particular task within a matter.

Reasonable Fees for a Lawyer

There is no standard fee charged by lawyers and each law firm will determine their own hourly fees based on various factors, including experience, seniority, speciality, overhead costs, location and of course just general market conditions and how competitive lawyers are in the area.

However, a word of warning: the fee a lawyer charges is not a reflection of their expertise or skill, you do not just get a better lawyer by paying more for them.

The Queensland Government produces schedules within the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules that govern the amount of legal costs that can be recovered by a successful party in litigation.  Whilst it is not as simple as picking an hourly rate, those schedules at least provide some benchmark to understanding the effect a lawyer’s hourly rate has on recoverable costs:

  • For Magistrates Court matters, an allowance of $258 per hour is made for out-of-court work and $282 per hour for in-court work.
  • For District and Supreme Court matters, an allowance of $322 per hour is made for out-of-court work and $352 per hour for in-court work.

So, in general, the ‘gap’ you might pay between your lawyer’s costs and what can be recoverable will be more – the more you pay your lawyer over the general allowances mentioned above.

Lastly, what fees are reasonable are better analysed in terms of the value you get from the particular lawyer, not their base charge out rates.  For time-billed matters, the value you get comes from what the lawyer can produce within a certain timeframe.  For instance, a lawyer who charges $300 per hour but spends 2 hours to write a letter will cost you more than the lawyer who charges $500 per hour but only takes 30 minutes to write the same letter.

This is where our tips to finding the right lawyer come into play regarding choosing someone bespoke.  The time a lawyer takes to do a task is greatly reduced by their familiarity with the task at hand and the less time they take, the less cost to you, often regardless of their base hourly rate.

Comparing Lawyers Fees 

As mentioned, comparing base hourly rates is a poor way to compare the service being offered between 2 lawyers.  Here’s our tips for getting the balance between value and cost right:

  • Be sure to check any estimate provided to you and understand the bases upon which that estimate might change.  If done right, the estimate should only change for unforeseen reasons.
  • Be sure to read the fine print on any agreement to see if the firm charges ‘uplift fees’ or ‘care and consideration’.  If they do, the hourly charge may well be effectively increased significantly when you are billed.
  • Be sure to check if you’ll be charged more for printing or photocopying things.  In a large matter, or one that is document heavy, these charges can add up to a significant sum.
  • Ask if the lawyer will compound multiple small/short tasks undertaken in a day together into a single unit of time, instead of multiple separate items. If you have a short back and forth email discussion with your lawyer throughout a day, some lawyers might charge you 1 unit for each individual email sent or received. Others (like us) wouldn’t do that as we recognise there is no value in charging you 8 units of time for an email exchange that has taken only a few minutes to deal with, despite it being stretched over a day.

How can we help?

We focus on civil litigation and consider our legal services provide great value for our clients.  Take a look at our article on the type of legal work we do (and not do) and feel free to call us or make an appointment to talk about your issues and find out why you might want to choose us to help you with your legal issues.


DISCLAIMER: The above article was written at a specific point in time in the past and is provided as general guidance only. It is not intended to be specific legal advice to any person’s particular circumstances who may be reading it. We do not recommend you use this article as a replacement for obtaining proper legal advice on your issue and encourage anyone reading the article to obtain legal advice to ensure the above information and guidance remains valid and suits your particular circumstance. In our experience, there is no ‘one size fits all’ to legal problems!