How our fees work
Advocates for Animals is a non-profit law firm. This means that we are able to offer fees which are much lower than commercial rates. However, we do need to charge for our time to cover our own costs, so that we can offer a dedicated, professional service to our clients.
You can read our other blog post here on why we believe that professionalising animal law is so important: https://www.advocates-for-animals.com/post/the-importance-of-professionalising-animal-law
We know that sometimes legal costs can be prohibitive. Nowhere is this truer than in the field of animal law where:
Our clients are not instructing us for personal gain, but often out of compassion for animals, so are often funding legal costs either personally or through donations
Our clients are typically charities or individuals, often without large resources
In civil claims, the starting point for any compensation is the market value of the animal, which is typically low, and invariably lower than the cost of legal proceedings, so even if our clients are successful at trial they are unlikely to recover all their costs
Bearing all of this in mind, we do our best to make our services accessible, and we are transparent and up front about our fees. We will explain this in a bit more detail.
We are transparent about fees
Depending on the work we are instructed on, we will either suggest a fixed fee, or we will charge an hourly rate. Our current hourly rate is £80 plus VAT, and we calculate our fixed fees on the basis of a day rate of £600 plus VAT.
We will often give our clients the choice as to whether they would prefer a fixed fee or an hourly rate.
Fixed fees give our clients certainty about how much they are going to spend, but sometimes it is possible to complete the work in less time than anticipated, in which case clients on the hourly rate benefit from a reduced cost. On the other hand, sometimes the work takes longer than anticipated, so fixed rate clients benefit from a lower fee. The majority of law firms operate in a similar manner, with many of them preferring to charge hourly rates. By offering fixed fees, this enables us to give our clients confidence and reassurance about how much the legal work is going to cost.
Occasionally we will propose a fixed fee, but as the work progresses there are unexpected turns of events or unexpectedly large numbers of documents which mean the scope of the work expands significantly. If that is the case, and if we feel you would benefit from us completing that additional work, we may need to discuss increasing the fee with you. It will help us provide a more accurate quote if we have all of the information and documents upfront.
Please bear in mind that a case may also involve external fees such as experts, barristers and court costs.
We are up front
We will always make sure to agree the fee with you in advance, before we commence any work, so you will not receive an invoice that you are not expecting.
The nature of the work we do means that it is not always possible to predict how a matter is going to progress and what the total cost will be. At the outset, we will do our best to give you a ballpark figure. Oftentimes, and particularly if the matter is one which may end up in court, this can sound like a very large sum.
If we have provided you with a fee estimate or a total ballpark which is prohibitive, please do let us know and we will work with you to try and find a solution that works for you, which could be reducing the scope of the work or changing the strategy so that it is affordable for you.
We are accessible
As above, we are proud to be able to maintain our very low rates, which make us accessible to as many people as possible.
However, we do understand that, even then, the legal costs are simply too high, and it is with great regret that we cannot help in every case.
In some cases, our clients have success with crowdfunding or seeking out third party funding. This is not something that we can help with directly, but we would be very happy to assist, for example, by reviewing a crowdfunding page to minimise the risk of it prejudicing any legal action.
Will you get your money back?
If your matter is either a civil dispute or a private prosecution, there is a possibility that you will be able to recover some (though not all) of your legal costs.
This is particularly true in the criminal courts where, for serious (indictable) offences, a private prosecutor may be able to recover their costs from central funds. We would need to advise you on this on a case-by-case basis.
In the civil courts, recovery of costs is not always possible, and particularly in animal-related claims, which are often allocated to the small claims track (often referred to as the small claims court). On the small claims track, the starting point is that each party bears their own legal costs, so you are unlikely to be able to recover anything. However, claimants also benefit from avoiding the risk that they will be ordered to pay the defendant’s costs if they are unsuccessful. For claims with a value of more than £10,000, the general rule is that the “loser pays the winner’s costs”. So if you are successful you may be able to recover some of your costs, but equally if you are unsuccessful, you may be ordered to pay the defendant’s costs.
This is a very basic overview of the position and should not be taken as legal advice. If you need any specific advice please do not hesitate to get in touch with us and we would be happy to advise you accordingly.