Fixed fee or by the hour?

Some people think that solicitors charging for their time is a bit old fashioned. There is a huge move towards the commoditisation of legal services – so that, rather like Tesco, you buy something off the shelf. This is greatly to be praised – it means the customer can see what they get and be able to compare services.

The difficulty comes when you compare a retail item to a service and a skill. If you want a T-Shirt, do you get it from Tesco, Gap, or somewhere designer? What is it about the T-Shirt buying experience, or the product that you buy that appeals? The good quality? The cheap item that you need before heading to the beach? The one with the special label that means you are exclusive and/or you look more attractive?

When you think about other trades – plumbers, electricians, mechanics, gardeners – then they also charge for their skills on the basis of how long it will take. Some charge a combination – a call out fee with one hour included.

What’s the worst thing about fees being charged on the basis of the time that is spent? Not knowing where you are. And being faced with a huge bill. And how large a bill depends sometimes on what you are used to. And what you think the job is worth.

I’d like to run a survey – how should your solicitor charge?