This is a question most lawyers get asked frequently. There are different approaches to billing for legal services including: hourly fees; flat fees; contingency; and value-added fees. The most common form of billing is hourly fees, which is the approach our firm takes. Hourly fees for various services are clearly set out in your retainer agreement.
The next question is how many hours will it take to reach a conclusion to your matter? It is generally next to impossible to predict the ultimate number of hours that will be required on any proceeding. Legal hours can escalate due to unforeseen obstructions, interim applications, extra steps due to non-cooperation, failure to reach agreements due to unreasonableness on the part of one or both parties, or myriad other challenges which require counsel to perform additional services.
Negotiated or mediated settlement is always encouraged as one of the most effective means of keeping costs as low as possible. Attendance at mediation is expensive insofar as there are usually two lawyers and a mediator all billing an hourly rate for the same meeting. However, if the mediation is successful it is well worth the investment. A successful mediation may cost thousands but can save tens of thousands! Court appearances, particularly trials, use the most legal hours due to the time it takes to prepare the evidence and argument, and to appear in court and argue your case. Courts are over-burdened and therefore there are often delays and wasted time due to long waits and adjournments.