A lawyer is entitled to set his or her own fee. However, the Judicial Code (article 446 ter) requires lawyers to estimate their fees with the prudence that should be expected from their position, so that the costing demonstrates due moderation.
Apart from this statutory limitation, lawyers therefore themselves decide how they will calculate their fee. Without being in any way binding, three calculation methods are widely used for estimating fees, because of their simplicity and convenience, and because they are familiar to clients.
- payment by units of time, a sum per chargeable hour or part hour for the services rendered;
- payment in accordance with the value of the matter, which amounts to a percentage of the monetary value of a case;
- payment reflecting the nature of the matter, i.e. a standard rate for a service or series of services. This method is falling into disuse.
The lawyer may also apply a different calculation method or a combination of these methods, established in a reasonable manner. The calculation may be increased or reduced, depending on factors such as:
- the financial capacity of the client;
- the urgency of the matter;
- the importance of the matter;
- the degree of difficulty;
- the result;
- the experience of the lawyer;
- the lawyer’s expertise in the matter.
As well as the fees, there are also costs which are charged to the client separately. Costs are the expenses that the lawyer incurs when conducting the matter on the client's behalf. They can be divided into general and particular costs.
General expenses are usually charged by the 'office unit', multiplied by the number of typed pages in a given dossier. As a non-binding indication, the office unit could be €10 per typed page. The particular costs incurred in a case are charged to the client. These include travel costs, advance payments to process servers, legal costs, court fees, translation and expert costs, etc.
All sums and rates exclude VAT.