Price-com­pare web­sites would re­duce so­lic­i­tor costs: watch­dog

Irish Independent - - News - Shane Phe­lan Le­gal Af­fairs Edi­tor

THE com­pe­ti­tion watch­dog is press­ing for the use of price com­par­i­son tools for le­gal ser­vices in Ire­land.

Very of­ten it is hard for con­sumers to know how much they should be pay­ing for a spe­cific ser­vice as law firms in Ire­land tend not to ad­ver­tise their fees.

Although the Law So­ci­ety has a ‘Get a Quote’ ser­vice on its web­site, with 200 firms par­tic­i­pat­ing, this deals only with a small range of ser­vices, such as pro­bate, buy­ing or sell­ing a prop­erty and mak­ing a will.

The Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Com­mis­sion (CCPC) is press­ing for more move­ment in this area, with a spokesman say­ing it be­lieved on­line com­par­i­son tools “can re­duce costs and pro­vide en­hanced trans­parency”.

The CCPC has urged the new Le­gal Ser­vices Reg­u­la­tory Author­ity to con­sider how price-com­par­i­son tools could op­er­ate and to en­sure they are a use­ful and trust­wor­thy source of in­for­ma­tion.

Price-com­par­i­son ser­vices are a reg­u­lated fea­ture of the mar­ket in Eng­land and Wales.

The CCPC pointed to re­search by its pre­de­ces­sor, the Na­tional Con­sumer Agency, which found sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tion in rates charged by solic­i­tors for the same le­gal ser­vices, such as con­veyanc­ing, get­ting a will or a grant of pro­bate.

While there can be sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tions, the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent found that a typ­i­cal quote for fees for the pur­chase of a reg­u­lar-sized fam­ily home in west Dublin was in the re­gion of €3,000 to €3,500.

Out of this, the so­lic­i­tor’s fee would be €1,500, plus VAT of

€345, with the re­main­der made up of var­i­ous out­lays such as le­gal searches and regis­tra­tion fees. Th­ese ad­di­tional sums are not in­come for the so­lic­i­tor, but are paid through him or her.

In the area of wills, some solic­i­tors said they would do a will for free for ex­ist­ing clients. Oth­er­wise a straight­for­ward will can be bought for between

€50 and €150 plus VAT. How­ever, the cost can rise to between €250 and €300 plus VAT if there is more work in­volved, such as set­ting up a trust for young chil­dren.

Sim­i­larly, the cost would in­crease in cer­tain sce­nar­ios, such as where there is a child with spe­cial needs. Wills in­volv­ing sub­stan­tial as­sets can also cost more.

Fees for get­ting a grant of pro­bate, the doc­u­ment which gives au­tho­ri­sa­tion to the ex­ecu­tor of a will to ad­min­is­ter that per­son’s es­tate, used to be gen­er­ally based on 2.5pc of the gross value of the es­tate.

But solic­i­tors said in­creased com­pe­ti­tion meant most firms now charge less. One so­lic­i­tor with a busy pro­bate prac­tice pro­vided the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent with a quote that worked out at

1.25pc of the value of the es­tate. This would amount to €3,000 plus VAT on an es­tate worth

€240,000 com­pris­ing a mort­gage-free house and sav­ings.

How­ever, solic­i­tors said many fac­tors can drive up fees for pro­bate work, in­clud­ing a large num­ber of ben­e­fi­cia­ries, un­cer­tainty over the lo­ca­tion of as­sets and bad ti­tle on land.


The Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent also sought quotes for di­vorce set­tle­ments and found es­ti­mates of the costs in­volved largely de­pend on how am­i­ca­ble or ac­ri­mo­nious a split is.

Di­vorce can be rel­a­tively cheap if there is agree­ment on key is­sues, such as en­sur­ing fu­ture fi­nan­cial pro­vi­sion for both par­ties, cus­tody of chil­dren and vis­i­ta­tion rights.

One ex­pe­ri­enced so­lic­i­tor with a fam­ily law prac­tice said it was pos­si­ble for a client to get a con­sent di­vorce for as lit­tle as €2,500 to €3,500. But this would be in the rare sit­u­a­tion where a child­less cou­ple with rea­son­ably sim­i­lar in­comes al­ready have a ju­di­cial sep­a­ra­tion, have sold their home, and have al­ready reached an agree­ment on who ben­e­fits from pen­sions.

A di­vorce in­volv­ing two PAYE work­ers with a house and pen­sions, but no other large as­sets, would gen­er­ally re­sult in fees between €7,500 and €10,000 for the client, the so­lic­i­tor said.

But if it were to be ar­gued out, the fees might be between

€10,000 to €20,000.

The so­lic­i­tor said the cases that “go men­tal” on fees are con­tentious ones in­volv­ing dis­putes over cus­tody of chil­dren and vis­i­ta­tion rights, where costs are of­ten more than

€30,000 and €40,000. Th­ese are cases where there is no agree­ment on key is­sues or one side re­fuses to en­gage.

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