Various options exist with regards to legal fees. The person who engages the services of an attorney is ordinarily required to pay the legal fees, costs and disbursements on an ongoing basis. However, funding specialised litigation is not within the budget of most South Africans. Just ask any person who recently got divorced!
Most attorneys charge professional fees on an hourly basis (Attorney and Client Costs) as we sell our time and knowledge. So, in most instances, an attorney will quote an hourly rate. This hourly rate will depend on the experience of the attorney, area of practice, the complexity of the matter, etc.
In the event that you cannot finance the litigation costs yourself, we at René Fouché Incorporated are, however, able to assist you on a contingency basis if you so choose. This is on a no win, no fee basis in terms of the Contingency Fees Act.
Should you elect to sign a Contingency Fee agreement, we will finance the investigation and preparation of a matter including, inter alia, the costs of obtaining all clinical records, securing and briefing medical experts and advocates, conducting radiological and pathological investigations, transport to medico-legal appointments, etc. Upon the successful conclusion of the matter, we recover our fees, costs and disbursements from the capital award – if the claim does not succeed, you will not be liable for any payment.
What is a contingency fee agreement?
The Contingency Fees Act defines a contingency fee agreement as an agreement between an attorney and his client in which the parties agree that:
- Unless the client is successful to the extent described in the agreement, the attorney will not be entitled to any fees for services rendered; and
- If the client is successful to the extent described in the agreement, the attorney will be entitled to fees for services rendered equal to, or higher than his normal fees, as specified in the agreement. Provided that the higher fee (the fee above the attorney’s normal fee) may not exceed the attorney’s normal fees by more than 100 per cent, and further providing that in the case of claims for money, the total of the higher fee, may not exceed 25 per cent of the total amount of money awarded to the client. Any costs awarded to the client are excluded from the calculation of the aforementioned 100 per cent and 25 per cent limits.
Are there any formalities which must be complied with pertaining to the formation of the contract?
The Act provides for the following formalities in respect of contingency fee agreements:
- The agreement must be in writing in the prescribed format
- The agreement must be signed by the client and the attorney, and where applicable must be countersigned by the advocate concerned;
- The agreement must state the following:
- The proceedings to which the agreement relates;
- That, before the agreement was entered into, the client:
- Was advised of any other ways of financing the litigation and of their respective implications;
- Was informed of the normal rule that in the event of his, her or it being unsuccessful in the proceedings, he, she or it may be liable to pay the taxed party and party costs of his, her or its opponent in the proceedings;
- Was informed that he, she or it will also be liable to pay the success fee in the event of success; and
- Understood the meaning of the agreement;
- What will be regarded by the parties to the agreement as constituting success or partial success;
- The circumstances in which the attorney’s fees and disbursements relating to the matter are payable;
- The amount which will be due, and the consequences which will follow, in the event of the partial success in the proceedings, and in the event of the premature termination for any reason of the agreement;
- Either the amounts payable or the method to be used in calculating the amounts payable;
- The manner in which disbursements made or incurred by the attorney on behalf of the client shall be dealt with;
- That the client will have a period of 14 days, calculated from the date of the agreement, during which he, she or it will have the right to withdraw from the agreement by giving notice to the attorney in writing: Provided that in the event of withdrawal the attorney will be entitled to fees and disbursements in respect of any necessary or essential work done to protect the interests of the client during such period, calculated on an attorney and client basis;
- The manner in which any amendment or other agreements ancillary to that contingency fees agreement will be dealt with; and
- A copy of the agreement shall be delivered to the client on the date on which the agreement is signed.
What can a client do if he or she does not agree with the fees charged by the attorney in respect of their agreement set out in the contingency fee agreement?
If the client is unhappy with the fees charged by his attorney the client may refer the matter to the relevant law society for the contingency fee agreement to be reviewed. The law society may set aside any provision of the contingency fee agreement or any fees claimable in terms thereof if in its opinion the provision or fees are unreasonable or unjust.