I read your column last week and am convinced I need a lawyer. My follow-up question then is how do I access affordable legal services? Legal services seem to be very expensive and I am not sure I can afford a lawyer right now. What options do I have?
Hello again Edward! I am glad you now see the importance of having a lawyer. Your question is now how to access legal services without breaking your budget.
Firstly, I want to correct the notion that legal services are very expensive. I believe that expensive is a very relative word. If you value something, then you will be willing to pay the price for it.
The value offered by lawyers is priceless because lawyers help you avoid costly mistakes and play a big role in shaping your business. Legal advice carries a great value with it not only in preventing mistakes but also in managing risk.
Legal fees are regulated under the Advocates Remuneration Order. However, it might surprise you that the law sets a floor and not a ceiling in the pricing. This means that lawyers are not allowed to undercharge and that is, charge below the set minimum.
'Wakili quick one'
I saw a post on social media by some lawyers complaining of a trend where their acquaintances often fish for free legal advice which they jokingly referred to as “ wakili quick one.”
From the social media post, the lawyers noted that some acquaintances take advantage of social connections to fish for free legal advice.
I would discourage the “ wakili quick one” method of fishing for free legal advice because it is quite disrespectful. I am sure you wouldn’t go to your acquaintances’ restaurants for free food just because you are acquaintances.
Here are a few tips you can use to access affordable legal services. Firstly, is the traditional method. You could start by sending out inquiries to different law firms asking how much they would charge for the service you are seeking.
However, be careful to balance cost with experience and competence.
Here are some out-of-the-box methods. You could think of retaining a lawyer as part of your staff. The lawyer would be able to handle all of your legal matters in exchange for a salary. You could also consider hiring a lawyer on a retainer.
This means that for a periodic fee the lawyer would be at hand to handle all of your legal matters. I know some law firms are offering this model remotely.
This means that in exchange for a periodic fee then they would be at hand to respond to all your legal issues and inquiries. Both models make sense when you have a high volume of legal issues.
There are some NGOs that offer legal support to select types of businesses. For example, there is an organisation that offers pro bono (free) legal services to social enterprises globally. You could try and sign up if you are a social enterprise.
You could appoint a lawyer as part of your board of directors. The lawyer would be paid a sitting allowance and enjoy other perks that come with being a director. The legal director could give general legal guidance to your business.
Lastly, if you are open enough you could offer a lawyer a stake in your business in exchange for legal advisory. This is what is called “sweat equity,” where what the lawyer has discounted as fees is rewarded through equity.
All the best!
The writer is the founder of C Mputhia Advocates; [email protected]