What determines the fee a criminal defence solicitor charges?

Obviously, the fee that a criminal defence solicitor charges his client (if paying privately) is determined by, usually, his hourly rate multiplied by the time it takes for the lawyer to complete his / her work. I will normally offer my clients a fixed or graduated fee depending on the circumstances of a case, but ultimately this is calculated on an estimate of those two variables so the real question is: “what are the factors that affect the time required for me to fulfil my role (as outlined here)”? These are numerous, but can be summarised as those:

  • Relating to the evidence itself, i.e. its volume and type (reflecting its complexity);
  • Relating to the number of clients I am representing;
  • Relating to the type of client, e.g. whether English is his/her first language and psychological/psychiatric characteristics;
  • Relating to the client’s attitude towards the prosecution process (i.e. whether (s)he intends to plead guilty or not, and the stage at which this decision is made);
  • Relating to other external factors such as geography (for example, the location of the client and court), court listing practices, etc.

Types (classes) of offences

The class of offence a Defendant is charged with does not directly influence the time required to properly prepare his/her case, although it is often indicative of the nature (i.e. volume and type) of evidence likely to be involved (see below). There may also be an indirect correlation between types of offence and types of client.

The class of offence is a factor in determining the appropriate level of lawyer who should have conduct of a particular matter (the more serious a case in terms of potential outcome and/or complexity, the more experienced the lawyer should be; this is something that I will discuss with the client in terms of the overall budget for a case.

Types of evidence

I use the term “evidence” here to refer to the material that goes to make up the facts and assertions relevant to particular issues in a case. An important part of my job is to identify which of these are agreed or in dispute (either as a matter of fact or in relation to relevance) as between the parties.

Pre-trial disclosure of evidence will consist of documentary and other physical evidence including so called “unused material” . The nature and content of this has a direct bearing on how long it will take me to consider it.

The list below comprises the different types of material that I consider are significant “influencers” on the time it takes for a lawyer to fulfill his obligations to the client.

  1. Documentary Evidence
    • “Standard”
      • Statements
      • Exhibits
    • Financial material
      • Banking evidence
      • Company accounts
      • Transactional data (e.g. bank statements, ledgers, invoices, claim forms, accounting journals, etc.)
    • Telephone material
      • Telephone call data
      • Telephone subscriber details
      • Cellsite details
    • Computer-derived material
      • Internet relay chat logs
      • Email correspondence
      • Internet history logs
    • Demonstrative material
      • Association charts
      • Time lines
      • Charts, plans, diagrams, sketches, maps
    • Expert material / statements with forensic content
      • Accountant
      • Computer
      • Telephone handset examination
      • Forensic scientist (e.g. fingerprints, chemist, biologist, etc)
      • Psychologist / psychiatrist
      • other
    • Miscellaneous material
      • Search and seizures
      • Surveillance statements
      • Chronologies / event logs
      • Notes / transcripts of court hearings
    • Transcripts of interviews
      • With the defendant
      • With the co-defendants
      • With significant witnesses
  2. Physical Evidence
    • Data-capable material
      • Computer hard drives
      • DVDs / CDs
      • Other data capable devices (e.g. USB flash drives, meory cards, IPODs, MP3s, satellite navigation devices, etc.)
    • Demonstrative material
      • Video, animation, virtual reality reconstructions
    • Recordings
      • Audio
      • CCTV / Video
    • Other (requiring physical inspection)
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