Specialist criminal lawyers in Sydney don’t come cheap, but with the risk of a life-altering criminal record or even a stint in prison, you don’t want to sacrifice quality representation for low cost.
Luckily there are a number of proactive steps all clients can take to ensure costs are kept as low as possible.
Here are some tips.
Low Cost Lawyer Tip #1: Prepare As Much As Possible
Clients can help their case by providing as much useful information to their lawyer as possible, as earliest as possible.
Some helpful things to prepare include a chronology of your version of events: What happened? Who was there? What evidence can help support your side of the story?
It’s important that any chronology stick only to the facts and events relevant to your charges. Often, less is more. Unnecessary detail in your summary can easily blow out the time spent by your lawyer teasing out what’s relevant. Keep it short and to the point!
If you are supplying documents to your lawyer (emails, audio recordings, written documents etc) – it’s crucial that they are in a simple format and easy to understand. For example, if you’re supplying an email chain to your lawyer, ensure each email file is labelled with a date and time, and placed in some kind chronological order.
Before meeting with your lawyer, it is often useful to write down all the key questions you want answered. That way meetings can run as efficiently as possible, and you’re not having to call or email questions at a later date. Similarly, you might want to take notes in meetings to ensure you remember everything you’ve been told.
The more prepared you are when engaging a lawyer, the lower the cost of representation and the greater the focus can be put into ensuring the crucial most important aspects of your case are looked at and addressed in a timely manner. This can significantly increase your chances at getting the best possible result because it allows your criminal lawyer to focus on what actually matters.
Low Cost Lawyer Tip #2: Ask About Fixed Fee Options
One of the most important questions you should ask when first engaging a lawyer is “how do you cost your service?”.
If your case is relatively simple, you may be able to get representation for a “fixed fee”. A fixed fee service involves an agreed price for preparing your case and attending court.
If your case is more complex, you may be charged an hourly rate instead. Nevertheless, you should be provided with an estimate of the overall costs of your case.
At Criminal Defence Lawyers Australia, we have a number of fixed fee options for clients.
If you are pleading guilty, for non-complex sentences we offer the following fixed fee services for all preparation work, conferences, and a full day in court by an experienced lawyer:
- $1,650 (incl. GST) for courts in or near Sydney
- $2,200 (incl. GST) for courts outside Sydney Plus travel disbursement if necessary
For non-complex local court hearings where you intend to plead not guilty, including most assault, drug and driving charges, we offer the following fixed fee services encompassing a first court date called a ‘mention’, all preparation work, conferences and your hearing date in court by an experienced lawyer:
- $3,300 (incl. GST) for courts in or near Sydney
- $4,400 (incl. GST) for courts outside Sydney Plus travel disbursement if necessary
We can discuss whether this package is right for you during your free initial consultation.
Low Cost Lawyer Tip #3: Be Realistic
Clients can sometimes have an unrealistic view of their legal options, and it’s crucial that an experienced criminal lawyer be as frank as possible about your prospects of success in any criminal case.
We have all heard of questionable practices by criminal lawyers who promise the world to their clients in order to prolong court matters that have no prospect of success.
A good criminal defence lawyer will tell you whether it is in your best interest to plead guilty or whether there are good grounds to challenge the police’s evidence.
Honesty should go both ways. If you’re aware of evidence that police have access to that could undermine your case, you should tell your lawyer immediately. There is no point in vital resources being wasted pursuing legal options that have no prospect of success.
There is one important caveat to be placed on this call for transparency and that is admitting guilt if you wish to plead not guilty. This goes into what part of what a criminal lawyers role is.
Criminal lawyers are bound by professional conduct rules which prevent them from misleading the court. If a client confesses guilt to their lawyer, but wishes to maintain a plea of not guilty, the way a case can be run following this disclosure is often extremely limited.
Generally though, the relationship between lawyer and client should be one of frankness to ensuring your lawyer can give you the most accurate and realistic advice about your prospects of success and then helping you maximise your chances at getting the best possible outcome in your particular case.
Low Cost Lawyer Tip #4: Don’t Ignore Your Lawyer
Your criminal lawyer isn’t going to contact you for a social catch up. If they’re calling you, or sending you an email, it is for a good reason and you absolutely should not ignore them.
A lot of unnecessary costs can be incurred if a client is unresponsive, and a lawyer is having to leave repeated voicemails for you to contact them.
When it comes to court matters there are often important deadlines that need to be met. It’s therefore crucial that you respond promptly, or else you risk having your matter drawn out unnecessarily.
Timeliness is particularly vital on the day of your court hearing. It’s recommended that you show up early to court, giving yourself plenty of time to go through security and find the correct location. If there are any anticipated delays you should contact your lawyer immediately.
Being as responsive as possible to your lawyer is not only a good idea to keep costs low, it also ensures your lawyer has all the information they need to put your best case forward.
Low Cost Lawyer Tip #5: Have Your Legal Costs Reviewed & Know Your Options If You’ve Been Ripped Off
If you are unhappy with the amount you’ve been charged for legal services there are a number of options available.
If your invoice has arrived and isn’t itemised (listing the nature of each task undertaken), you should request an itemised bill. Lawyers are required under professional conduct rules to provide you with an itemised bill upon request.
If after reviewing the itemised bill you’re still unhappy with the amount you’ve been charged, you can apply for an independent costs assessment by a NSW court approved costs assessor. The assessor will be able to determine whether your costs are fair and reasonable.
If you believe your lawyer has behaved unprofessionally, you can also file a complaint with the NSW Office of the Legal Services Commissioner (OLSC) for disciplinary action.
It is often worth speaking to the OLSC before making a complaint, their toll free Inquiry Line can be contacted via 1800 242 958 or (02) 9377 1800.
One final tip we will mention before concluding this article is to consider getting an experienced criminal lawyer. An experienced criminal lawyer may charge more in the hour, but due to experience and expertise, is not required to spend as much time as a more inexperienced junior lawyer will in preparation.
This will generally result in paying less legal fees overall with a much better quality legal work done on your case by the end of the case. This is also likely to significantly increase your chances at getting the best possible outcome. It is generally worth paying for quality. It generally ends up working out cheaper with less headaches in the long run.
By following the above tips you can ensure your legal costs are kept to a minimum whilst getting the best professional representation from your criminal defence lawyer.