Why Are Lawyers in a Australia So Expensive?

Lawyers here charge from $300/hr (junior lawyer) to $700/hr (partner) then charge per page to fax, and per minute on the phone etc.
They don’t study as long as doctors but charge much more.
How will people with problems be able to afford that?
In Australia, people have no hope if they are not millionaires or not on Centrelink.

closed Comments

  • +28 votes

    They are also generally arrogant and reliably lazy. (I've seen probate held up for weeks because the lawyer didn't read the parchment requirement.) It's more than possible to represent yourself and succeed. It's quite fun knowing your opponent is paying for each staple and phone call.

    • +8 votes

      parchment

      Tally ho, old chap!

    • -1 vote

      And many lawyers assess if there's money compensation for the sort of defence you need and if the money is not good, they turn you down. Like if you're a cleaner doing an industrial lawsuit or you're CEO doing an industrial lawsuit obviously future earnings is a big consideration for the lawyer as they take a percentage of it

      • +1 vote

        In Australia it’s actually not legal for solicitors to take a % as their compensation. That’s instead required to be billed at the provided rate for their services provided.
        In the US and some other jurisdictions it’s common for a percentage to be the negotiated fee for representation of any costs awarded but not here.
        And not all lawyers are as expensive.
        Legal Aid was a fundamental change in the system as a result of judicial review several years ago to provide legal representation for those who don’t have the resources to engage someone to represent them.
        If you had specific skills honed by your experience that made you able to dictate your earnings, would you honestly cut your rate when there’s no need as another client will come knocking needing the skills only you can offer?

      •  

        Lawyers in Australia do not get any of the proceedings. So you're full of absolute sheeeiitttt

    •  

      How does one go about learning to do that.

    • +14 votes

      Yet people complain when the GP who trained for over 10 years charges them $70 most of which can be claimed on Medicare rebate. Stephanie..

    • +5 votes

      As a lawyer I highly recommend you don't represent yourself especially in criminal matters due to the complexities of the legal system.
      The court system itself is very procedural and as a self-represented individual you won't have the slightest idea of the process.
      Think of it this way, would you rather spend the money on a lawyer or go to jail because you failed adhere to court rules.

      • -1 vote

        Disagree completely. I have seen many self represent and the Court allows them every opportunity. They get stepped through the process. At the end of the day it is highly unlikely anything other than a fine is given for any low level offence/s

        • +1 vote

          He's talking about serious criminal offences (e.g. assault, fraud, rape etc). I think you're talking about summary offences (eg. traffic infringements). It's not uncommon to be self represented for summary offences but for serious criminal offences, you should definitely get a lawyer. The court system and law of evidence is complicated if you're not familiar with it.

  • +19 votes

    That's just not true.

    I have had some legal work done lately, and was charged around $200 per hour for a partner in an Adelaide CBD practice.

    Most lawyers will quote you a fixed-fee quote for straightforward work.

    You need to do some research (like your bulk-billing grizzle) before you kick off here.

  • +23 votes

    Because they need money to pay for their fancy sport cars, holiday houses, oversea holidays, expensive organic wine…

  •  

    I thought lawyers are provided for free in Legal Aid?

    •  

      I thought legal aid is only available for people who are truly struggling financially?

      • +14 votes

        Yeah only refugees, permanent arts students, and professional protester qualify for legal aid. The rest of us have to pay to have a scumbag represent us.

        • +1 vote

          And Bryce Ristevski.

          It's actually means tested.

        • +1 vote

          Usually waiting list is 3 months and they prioritise life death jail cases first and there are so many of those so negligent money cases are the bottom

        • +1 vote

          Not strictly true. They deal with the matters as they are being brought to court for action.
          If a person has just been arrested and appearing for initial bail, that is certainly going to take priority over someone scheduled for later in the day for a minor matter of much less potential consequence.
          A persons liberty is held to be paramount in our legal system.

      •  

        Nope, got help with legal aid in Victoria even though I wasn't struggling.

  • +37 votes

    Trolling Episode #2

    For previous episode, see
    https://www.ozbargain.com.au/node/375804

  • +21 votes

    Lawyers in a Australia

    What about lawyers in 2 Australias?

  • +5 votes

    Please tell us how much lawyers are in the overseas country you came here from for comparison? Are they free ?

  • +4 votes

    Their services should be free right? Just like doctors.

    • +17 votes

      Just tell them it's for a quick question or complain about the waiting time.

    • -3 votes

      Doctors are charging the same amount or higher, it’s just most of the time they are paid by Medicare.

      • +8 votes

        Oh that's not true, maybe some private specialists charge those numbers but your average hospital doctor is on $40-$80/hour depending on seniority. Doctors don't do billables like sending faxes and stuff. Australia would go bankrupt if doctors billed like lawyers.

        •  

          Many specialists doctors do offer some form of bulk bill at least for the first visit done even offer a few visits on bulk bill.

        • +1 vote

          U really think Doctors don't charge like lawyers?
          Go look up specialist (pretty much high than any lawyer - except perhaps top 5% or less), its just thats its hidden (i.e paid through your tax dollar).

        • +1 vote

          This is delusional. You only look at the amount that you pay, rather than the amount doctors are paid.

        •  

          @TheMostHated: seems fair, I can do without a lawyer, if I need that specialist I need him lol.

    • +12 votes

      I found a lawyer that bulk bills

  • +57 votes

    It was so cold the other morning that I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets.

  • +4 votes

    Doctors should be free. Lawyers should charge less than doctors.

    Where the hell are my lawyers. They owe me money!

  • +4 votes

    If the work was easy, everyone would be doing it.

    • +15 votes

      It is and they are.

      On OzBargain at least. :)

    • +2 votes

      Most of their standard work is pretty easy, but there's a significant barrier to entry - having to be a qualified lawyer and member of the state and federal bar associations.

      •  

        Minor correction there regarding bar associations. If you're talking about solicitors, that'll be a practising certificate issued by your State's Law Society. Bar association is only for barristers and they don't charge $300-$700 per hour…

  • +14 votes

    I realise this is possibly a troll post but I'll bite.

    I don't agree with your comparison with doctors. Law is a difficult degree. It may not be as challenging or lengthy as medicine (I haven't done a medical degree so I can't comment first-hand) but that doesn't make it a walk in the park.

    Running a law firm involves a lot of overheads. Most lawyers have their own secretary so you are essentially paying for two people in their hourly rate. Database subscriptions, computer systems and software, continuing professional development, etc all add up. And unlike health there is no government subsidies or incentives along the way.

    A high hourly charge-out doesn't necessarily mean that every lawyer is filthy rich. Big city lawyers get paid very well, but they tend to work soul-crushing hours and have very stressful work. If you worked out what they earnt on a per-hour basis it may not seem quite as lucrative. Equity partners or business owners generally get paid well too, but if you had your own business with a similar number of salespersons, tradies, etc you would expect a proportionate increase in income too. Your average run of the mill lawyer isn't going to be crying poor but the high charge out rate doesn't directly translate to a Porsche in the garage and a yearly trip to France.

    I do agree with your comments though that affordability is a significant issue. But what is your proposal for change? Given that the governments of late have tended to cut - not increase - funding to community legal centres, I don't like your changes of them making some sort of subsidiary for legal matters for the middle class. Before a suggestion is made that lawyers should re-visit their fees, consider this: there is generally no requirement in nearly every field, from retail to mechanics to medicine, for business or professionals to reduce or waive their costs because someone struggles to afford it. Why should the legal profession be treated any differently?

    • +7 votes

      Your first support statement doesn't apply for high price;

      Running a law firm involves a lot of overheads. Most lawyers have their own secretary so you are essentially paying for two people in their hourly rate. Database subscriptions, computer systems and software, continuing professional development, etc all add up. And unlike health there is no government subsidies or incentives along the way.

      Most business has this overhead. Doesn't need to be Law Firm or Medical Surgery.

      Edit, I'm not a lawyer, but usually higher price means, higher reputation, which usually translate to get the job done.

      • +2 votes

        Both medical and legal liability insurance costs are relatively high compared to your run of the mill business.

      • +3 votes

        I think you would be surprised how much work goes on behind the work that you see.

        If a client calls me for 5 minutes, this means that I need to stop what I'm working on to refer to one of hundreds of files, look to the legal implications of what he is saying, locate relevant material in hundreds of documents which he expects me to know as soon as he calls, file note attendances so I don't get sued by clients who start blaming everyone when things go south (usually due to their own stupidity/arrogance).

        I'm not sure why there's so much hate for lawyers. If you don't think you need them, don't use them. Electricians, plumbers (etc) often get paid much more lucratively given their level of qualification and hours worked. For some reason people don't seem to feel entitled to a plumber the same way that they feel entitled to a lawyer, and I'd imagine it's rare that clients refuse to pay plumbers for their work.

        Seriously, I work 60 hour weeks for under $50k.

        •  

          In my understanding, people hate lawyers as they taking them for a ride by giving them false hope.
          At the point of accepting the case, eg criminal, they giving hope you can win, then charge a huge fee. Or if they win, if its a payout related, lawyers wins more than the client.
          Then again, law is a broad industry so don't get this personal, you just caught up with some bad fruits.

          I'm not saying most electricians, plumbers any better.
          Another example, in ACT basic convincing fee went from $500 to $1500+ within five years, its all because of the demand while GP fee probably went up from $80 to $90.

          Seriously, I work 60 hour weeks for under $50k

          50K for year? you need to get a better job :)

        •  

          Seriously, I work 60 hour weeks for under $50k.

          Damn you must be rich. I would work for 4 weeks and take the rest of the year on holiday with 200k in the pocket.

        • -1 vote

          @boomramada:

          no he obviously means 60 hours for 50k a week :) he is a lawyer remember!

        • +4 votes

          If it's accurate1 that you are working 60 hours a week on a regular basis and being paid less than $50k per annum, then you are working for below the minimum national wage of $18.29 per hour. Even at an average of 55 hours a week, the hourly rate for $50k per annum works out at $17.48 per hour.

          The maximum weekly working hours (ordinary time) permitted in Australia is currently 38 hours per week, so you cannot be required to work 60 hours per week (every week) by your employer - there are rules in the NES about reasonable overtime.

          So, either you are self employed, or my allegation would be that your employer is breaching Australian Law. If you are employed and earning a salary instead of a wage, again there are issues - by law your salary has to be at least as much as you would be entitled to earn if you were on a wage and claiming overtime for additional hours. So paying a "slary" isn't an excuse to under pay someone for overtime they may do.

          If you are working for yourself and earning those kind of dollars, I hope there is some long term benefit for you in your enterprise. If not you should consider getting a minimum wage job instead and enjoy the extra free time and money.

          I put some effort into this, I hope someone reads it and gets some benefit from it!


          1. most times I hear people make these kinds of claim, they are exaggerating, though I am not saying you are in this instance 

        • -3 votes

          @boomramada: You didn't see how much your real fee to the GP went up - you just saw what you paid.

          Of course specialist too.

        •  

          @TimOfMcDowall:

          I understand and have considered what you are saying, but it's just how it is.

          I've worked over a year and have only had 2 weeks annual leave. I have little choice but to keep my powder dry.

        •  

          @TimOfMcDowall: Can confirm this $50k per year for 60 hours / week can be true for lawyers, especially graduates getting jobs in smaller firms.

          The maximum weekly working hours (ordinary time) permitted in Australia is currently 38 hours per week(fairwork.gov.au), so you cannot be required to work 60 hours per week (every week) by your employer - there are rules in the NES about reasonable overtime.

          While the law sets this out, would you go and try enforce it to recoup maybe $20k in underpayments to go sue your employer and potentially ruin your own career? (remember court judgments are public + your employer and the magistrates / judges all work in the same field so word does get around and can make you unemployable. It's not against the law to refuse to employ someone if knowledge is out that they sued their previous boss.)

          Plus also remember your experience and knowledge in law is state specific most of the time, so you can't get up and leave to work in a new jurisdiction straight without having to learn a bunch of new things.

          If you are working for yourself and earning those kind of dollars, I hope there is some long term benefit for you in your enterprise. If not you should consider getting a minimum wage job instead and enjoy the extra free time and money.

          There is and you can be earning big bucks, if you can survive and climb to the top of the food chain. It's a dog-eat-dog industry.

        •  

          See, that's why everyone hates lawyers; They lie through their teeth.

          60hr week for 50K? SURE, we believe you.

        •  

          @Serapis: you are right, and I think that comes under the "future benefit" category. However, I don't think it's right, and I hope as these legal professionals become partners they start changing the way they treat their graduates instead of perpetuating the "hazing" of new grads by making them work unreasonable and illegal hours. Treating people the same poor way you were treated is why awful initiation ceremonies happen in the military, uni colleges, etc. It also makes those who have been through it feel their high hourly rate is justified as some kind of perverse concept of back pay.

          Pay people fairly from day 1, treat them fairly from day 1 and let them charge reasonably for the rest of their career. Yes or No?

        •  

          @xuqi:

          You mis-quoted me. I said less than 50k.

          This is why I hate laypeople. You don't have the mental discipline to read basic sentences correctly and then shift the blame to lawyers when you mess up.

          ;)

        •  

          @boomramada:

          50K for year? you need to get a better job :)

          The public doesn't realise that lawyers actually work ridiculous hours. It is not uncommon for them to work 12hr days and weekends even though your employment contract only requires you to work your standard 9am-5pm hours.

          Also those hourly rates don't transfer directly into their pockets.

          And unfortunately, that's just how the market is nowadays, shit pay for highly stressful work unless you're at the top. When you're at the top its better pay but with the same hours and still highly-stressful work.

        •  

          @TimOfMcDowall:

          If it's accurate1 that you are working 60 hours a week on a regular basis and being paid less than $50k per annum, then you are working for below the minimum national wage of $18.29 per hour(fairwork.gov.au). Even at an average of 55 hours a week, the hourly rate for $50k per annum works out at $17.48 per hour.

          The way they get around that is that they get paid a salary and the work they're required to do is listed in their position description. If you can't get your job done within business hours, then its expected that you stay back to complete it and that is what you agreed to in your employment contract. OT doesn't usually get paid out unless you get specifically requested to stay back after hours to do some work.

        •  

          @TheMostHated:
          thanks for injecting misinformation into an otherwise robust and completely unrelated discussion.

          for the record medicare rebates goes to the patient and the consult fee, if you are seeing a private billing gp is 100% what they receive. care to share where the mystical slush fund is coming from?

      • -1 vote

        He forgot insurance. Insurance is a % on gross income. Its high.

    • +7 votes

      I think your arguments are very reasonable. I’m a CBD accountant with 7 years experience, my charge out rate is ~$600, but I don’t get paid anywhere close to that. The overhead for professional companies is generally high. I work long hours, so if I work out my hourly rate, i will cry.

    • +1 vote

      I completely agree with you. I work in the legal industry in Sydney and have a high hourly rate.

      Compared to my hourly rate, I earn less than postdoctoral fellows (even though I'm also PhD qualified) and my friends in finance earn at least double what I earn.

      Lawyers are risk averse and insurance is exorbitant if it is a top tier firm as they deal with large corporates rather than the person off the street.

      It's also a stressful job and there is a lot of scrutiny involved in the job.

      •  

        Don't forget the bullying in the workplace, the crappy clients you don't want to deal with but get told you need to (i.e pedophiles, thieves, gang members), working the weekends, working late nights, getting told to work when sick because client just got arrested, the bullying and harassment outside the workplace (other lawyers / people threatening to ruin you)…

        Sydney is especially bad since there's an oversupply of lawyers so if you won't do it, someone else will.

    • +4 votes

      Nothing is a walk in the park just ask pharmacists graduates

    •  

      Lol I work in a kitchen as a chef, if someone down on their luck that can't afford food comes in you bet your arse I'll give them a free Vegemite and cheese sandwich ect. That's just part of being a caring human, if a single abused mother came in who's ex beat her ect then was during for the kids I'm sure you would try to help too. :)

      •  

        No I would refer her to a women's legal service in the state / court to get an AVO + support since you need specialized help with something like that. Only thing a lawyer can do is help her fill out the form whereas people being physically abused need a lot more than that (i.e community support / family support / housing support / counselling).

    • +1 vote

      Our lawyer drives a Porsche and spends Christmas in Paris each year.

  •  

    a lawyer's job is thankless - basically you are paying them to convince other people they are not lying. could be why it is so expensive.

  •  

    The question is, is it worth it to even get a lawyer if you had the option to represent yourself?

    • +5 votes

      Depend, if your partner want your $50M house, then $700/hr lawyer.
      If your licence got cancel for 12 month for drink and drive, then represent yourself.

      • +1 vote

        You're risking a chance of jail time of 9 months to save a little bit of cash. Usually drink driving matters are very simple with a lawyer and they charge fixed fees so cost should never even be an issue if you look at the alternative.
        And in any case it is much better in the view of the judge that you are represented by a lawyer over self-representation.

    •  

      There is always the option to represent yourself. Always.