Solicitor leaves sour taste to sale
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.