Calculating the Bill of Costs
Once the money has been lodged to the Fund – or if there is no money to lodge to the Fund and it is proposed to charge real property – the next step is to calculate the Bill of Costs.
Our costs can be agreed between the parties, measured by the Court, or determined by a Taxing Master/the County Registrar. Usually we draw up a Bill of Costs and present it to the client. The client does have the right to have the costs assessed by a Taxing Master/the County Registrar and you should inform clients of this right. Usually our Bill of Costs is accepted.
What’s included in our costs
Our costs are the total cost of the legal services provided in relation to a particular matter.
- Solicitor’s fees: we charge an hourly rate for solicitor’s time – currently €150 per hour (note though, that in judicial separation and divorce cases, solicitor’s fees can be capped).
- Counsel’s fees.
- Fees or expenses for obtaining reports
- Witnesses' expenses
- Court charges (i.e. the costs of “stamping” documents and otherwise doing business with the Court).
What’s deducted from our costs
- Any costs recovered or recoverable from the other side.
- The contributions(s) the person paid towards their legal services at the start of the case.
If either, or both of these, is enough to satisfy our costs, then the process ends at this point and there is no need to present the bill of costs to the client.
Cost of providing legal services – hourly rate
From time to time we revise the hourly rate used for the purpose of assessing the cost of providing legal services in individual cases. The rate reflects the real costs to us of providing legal services by a solicitor within a law centre, including Head Office costs. The rate is reviewed from time to time.
Our hourly rate is currently €150 per hour
The hourly rate to be charged should be the rate that was in being when the case was opened. The rate has been €150 for many years, however, you should be able to check the applicable rate on the person’s letter of engagement or section 68 letter on file.
Cap on solicitor’s fees in judicial separation and divorce cases
We cannot charge a person more than it cost us to provide legal services.
If any type of case is potentially referable to a private practitioner – regardless of whether it was or not it was actually referred – there is a “cap” or limit on the solicitor’s fees element of the costs recovered. This limit is the fee the private practitioner would have been paid for the same case. This includes any services provided under the initial grant of legal aid and for which we paid (or would have paid) the private practitioner a fee. It doesn’t include any additional expenditure that was authorised – e.g. witnesses’ expenses or reports that were specifically authorised and paid for by us.
This cap – which operates on the same principle as the cap on the person’s legal aid contribution - is applicable in all cases potentially referable to a private practitioner. In reality, most cases referred to a private practitioner in the District Court do not involve the recovery or preservation of any property or money other than maintenance, which is always waived in any event. So for practical purposes, it applies only to judicial separation and divorce cases.
At time of writing the cap is €5,000 for a judicial separation or divorce case.
Preparing the bill of costs
As the solicitor you should draw up the draft bill of costs and send it to Legal Services for finalisation. If you have logged everything on the Financial tab on EOS you can check this and use it to prepare the bill of costs. In particular, you should keep a record on the file of the hours you spend on the case and enter this on the Financial tab on EOS. EOS will calculate the total for you.
Once that is done it can be presented to the client. If the client accepts the bill of costs (having being informed of their right to taxation in default of agreement) arrangements can be made, through Legal Services, for the costs to be deducted from the money lodged to the Fund or a charge applied to the real property recovered or preserved.
In preparing a bill of costs for the client where there is no party / party recovery the bill should:
- Be readily understandable.
- Not be too light on detail.
- Not be overburdened with unnecessary information so as to make it incomprehensible.
- Be in narrative form.
- Focus on the extent of the professional work necessarily involved in confronting the issues.
- Contain particulars of counsel’s fees and counsel’s fee note should be attached.
- Attach vouchers for outlays.
- Set out the approximate number of solicitor hours spent on the matter.
- Set out the actual costs being charged if the costs are ‘capped’.