So­lic­i­tor leaves sour taste to sale

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FEEDBACK -

WE BOUGHT a prop­erty in Port Dou­glas a few months ago.

We were new to the re­gion, still liv­ing over­seas, we fell in love with the area and its nat­u­ral beau­ties to a point that we de­cided to buy a house and move here.

As we had no con­nec­tions in Port Dou­glas, we con­tacted MacDon­nells Law, a legal firm from Cairns, which ac­cepted to rep­re­sent us for the price of $920.

Only a month later, their ini­tial fee had in­creased to reach, on set­tle­ment day, the in­cred­i­ble amount of $9000.

Those who are not fa­mil­iar with the sit­u­a­tion would think that a spe­cial, par­tic­u­lar and del­i­cate work was car­ried out to jus­tify such an in­crease, but that was not the case.

The big file that was pro­duced as ev­i­dence of the load of work that was car­ried for us is only meant to mys­tify the client.

Qual­ity of ser­vice is not based on the amount of pa­per­work pro­duced.

If a law firm charges on the ba­sis of the amount of pa­per­work pro­duced, it should be eth­i­cal enough to keep the pa­per­work at its min­i­mum.

If, on the con­trary, their ob­jec­tive is to in­crease profit, writ­ing the same letter three times (and charg­ing $30 for each letter) and tak­ing ex­tra time for do­ing easy tasks will be re­warded with a con­sis­tent boost of the fi­nal bill.

Our so­lic­i­tor was even un­able to es­tab­lish if the en­croach­ment of a garage wall in the neigh­bour’s back­yard was of ma­te­rial or im­ma­te­rial kind.

Now, we un­der­stand that a so­lic­i­tor should be par­tic­u­larly care­ful about the state­ment he/she makes, but re­fus­ing to de­fine a wall “ma­te­rial” is maybe too much for some­body who charges $300 for an hour of his/her pre­cious time.

We are still pay­ing a huge amount of money for the way they mis­han­dled the en­croach­ment is­sue, fail­ing to look af­ter our in­ter­ests.

It was only af­ter set­tle­ment, when we re­ceived their bill, we learned in de­tails the way this firm charges - $300 per hour for any kind of work car­ried out, re­gard­less of the out­comes, the qual­ity of the in­for­ma­tion pro­vided and the ac­tual per­for­mance.

The most in­ter­est­ing part is that the seller’s so­lic­i­tor, Bolt Burch and Tran­ter, from Port Dou­glas, have charged their clients $2000 for deal­ing with ex­actly the same sale.

Per­haps their of­fices are not as spacious and their sec­re­tary is not as efficient, but the qual­ity of work and the ef­fec­tive­ness in deal­ing with the mat­ter speaks for it­self.

For $9000 our so­lic­i­tor didn’t even bother to come to Port Dou­glas on set­tle­ment day and de­cided to send the doc­u­ments by courier, re­sult­ing in a de­lay of nearly three hours with a con­se­quent loss of time for us and the other peo­ple in­volved in the sale.

When con­fronted with the huge billing dif­fer­ence be­tween the two law firms, the part­ners of MacDon­nells an­swered that: “It is ir­rel­e­vant that an­other legal firm has charged its cus­tomers one quar­ter of the price we have been charged.”

We don’t find this ir­rel­e­vant and we be­lieve that cit­i­zens and po­ten­tial clients of law firms do not find it ir­rel­e­vant ei­ther.

The eth­i­cal be­hav­iour of a firm is not ir­rel­e­vant, nor is ir­rel­e­vant their attitude to their clients. This is just a small con­tri­bu­tion meant to re­store the bal­ance.

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