Business start up - Instructing your solicitor

Last updated: December 2020 | 4 min read

Net Lawman are happy to provide advice, draft or assess documents. If you need additional legal services such as conveyancing or litigation help, you should approach a high street solicitor. We provide this advice after having worked in the industry for many years.


Competition is most areas of legal work is tough – mostly due to government and professional regulations. Of course this additional regulation often creates increased costs which are passed onto the client – this is why a visit to your high street solicitor is rather costly. That may be why architects, accountants, and others make a similar living at far lower charging rates.

Within the monopoly, solicitors are extremely competitive.

Shop around to find a solicitor!

Legal assistants may be charged out from $100 to $200 per hour. Non-solicitor fee earners from $110 to $220 per hour; solicitors from 180 to $360 per hour; for Sydney and rates add 50%.

Firms vary greatly in the extent to which they use non-solicitor staff for dealing with clients. Of course for a business, using less professional employee’s cuts costs. You will therefore frequently have preliminary information from your solicitor giving the name of that particular solicitor as the person in charge of your case, but then the work will be actually handled on a day-to-day basis by someone who is not a solicitor at all. Our advice is to avoid all “assistants” under the age of 25 and avoid trainees. That leaves you with “real” solicitors and experienced “legal executives”.

Find a specialist solicitor within business law

In a big firm this will be very expensive, so make sure you get some estimates on hourly rates. In a smaller firm the price may be much lower.

Don’t wait until you have a problem

If you urgently need advice you will not have time to find a solicitor who will meet your requirements - get someone in place now. Try to find and interview at least three “commercial” specialists. Choose someone who seems sharp rather than someone who shares your sporting interests! Solicitors’ firms will be reluctant to spare you time for this process, but if they are not interested in your business now, they may well have no time for you when you need them.

Provide full instructions

This is the easiest way to keeping costs low. The less your solicitor needs to speak to you, the less you end bill. There are two reasons for this:

  • Firstly, to pay somebody $2 a minute to write down your name, address, and business details is definitely more expensive than to do it yourself;·
  • Secondly, there is an old saying "a solicitor is only as good as his instructions".

Therefore give full background details of your company or business, including brief financial details and product details. Give the full history of your present problem, dispute, or requirement. Ask for an estimate of cost, and who precisely will be on the team dealing with your work, and also, how long it will take.

While your case runs

Answer questions fully and promptly. Remember that a reminder telephone call or letter will go down on her time sheet as a six-minute unit - costing you $20 or so! Pay bills promptly. You can then see where the money is going and avoid that feeling of foreboding when you do not know what to expect.

Factors pointing to bad service

Solicitors are expensive, so you should not accept a second rate service. Because they know the law and you don't, it is difficult for a client to assess quality of service. Here are a few red warning flags:

  • Letters you cannot understand (muddled thinking);
  • Letters with extremely long sentences (inability to see the basic problem / solution);
  • Failure to report to you at pre-agreed times (over-worked or inefficient);
  • Lack of progress (incompetent).

You may need to instruct another solicitor, but before you do, make an appointment to see this one. Express your concern clearly and boldly, and assess the reply. Either your informal complaint will clear the air and give your solicitor the clear message that you seek the service you are paying for, or alternatively it will convince you that you really should go elsewhere. If you move to another firm you will have to pay the first solicitor's bill to date. The odds on your being able to recover any part of that bill on account of the solicitor's poor work are stacked heavily against you. Find the right solicitor and stick with them.

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