Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Court Reporter
THE Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has announced new tariffs to be charged by lawyers ranging from RTGS$180 to $2 100 per hour from the least to the most qualified lawyer with effect from this month.
The new tariffs are for general professional services which include drafting, court attendance, taking instructions and telephone calls and do not cover party and party fees in civil litigation, conveyance fees, collection commissions, divorce and deceased estate administration fees among other legal services.
Fees for an uncontested divorce cases shot up by more than 100 percent from RTGS$3 600 to RTGS$7 200 for the plaintiff. A defendant in an uncontested divorce case will now have to part with RTGS$4 800.
In a circular to lawyers, the LSZ said legal practitioners are professionally and legally obliged to charge fees for legal work which are fair and reasonable under all circumstances.
“Legal practitioners are professionally and legally obliged to charge fees for legal work which are fair and reasonable in all the circumstances. In order to assist the profession and the public in this regard and to seek a degree of uniformity and consistency, this tariff is recommended by the Council of the Law Society of Zimbabwe for application to all legal work undertaken by legal practitioners, save where some other tariff is applied by law or where the client has agreed to some other rate or basis of charging,” read the circular.
“Thus party and party fees in civil litigation, conveyance fees, collection commissions and deceased estate administration fees are not covered by this tariff whereas legal practitioner and client fees in civil litigation and fees for criminal and general non-litigious work are covered.”
According to the circular, basic hourly charges vary according to years of experience.
Unregistered law graduates whose names are recorded by the Law Society are expected to charge between RTGS$180 and RTGS$360 while those with less than one year experience will charge from RTGS $300 to RTGS$450 and those with two to four years’ experience are supposed to charge from RTGS$420 to RTGS$720.
The document also stated that those who have been in practice for between five to nine years are now required to charge from RTGS$510 to RTGS$900 and from 10 to 14 years it’s now between RTGS$750 and RTGS$1 260 per hour.
Those with experience ranging between 15 and 19 years will charge from RTGS $900 and RTGS$1 620 and those with 20 to 29 years’ experience are expected to charge RTGS$1 050 to RTGS$1 860 per hour. The most experienced lawyers with 30 years and above are expected to charge as from RTGS$1 200.00 to RTGS$2 100 per hour.
“The ranges of hourly fees recommended in this tariff are designed to take into account both the varying levels of experience of practitioners and their varying costs of practice. Legal practitioners are entitled to charge rates which are at the lower or upper margins or anywhere in between these margins,” read the circular.
The legal profession regulating body said the fees recommended by the LSZ do not take value added tax into account and it should be added.
“Where a legal practitioner intends to charge fees on a basis which is different from that which is set out in this recommended tariff, it is essential that the client be informed in advance and that the client’s prior agreement to this should be obtained,” reads the circular.
The Council will regard any rate which is higher than the upper margin of the recommended range as materially different. — @mashnets.