Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The Bar Council of India prohibits advocates from charging fees to their clients contingent on the results of litigation or pay a percentage or share of the claims awarded by the Court. Bar Council of India Rules: Part VI, Chapter II, Section II, Rule 20 which reads as under:
“20. An advocate shall not stipulate for a fee contingent on the results of litigation or agree to share the proceeds thereof.”
Many have the misconception that the reason why lawyers do not work on a contingency basis is that such an agreement between the lawyer and client would be a wagering one, and therefore are void. Apart from the Bar Council Rules which have expressly prohibited it, in the landmark case of Ganga Ram v. Devi Das, 61 P.R. (1907), such an agreement was held to be void for being against public policy and also against professional ethics
 However, although prohibited, in several cases, especially those before the lower Courts, clients are charged on the percentage of claim amount that the lawyer is able to recover. However, the practice though prevalent, has hardly led to disputes and is can seldom be proved. Reason being that the contingency agreement is always oral and highly informal. It must be remembered that such an agreement is not only void but also would lead to the lawyer facing disciplinary action by the Bar Council and a chance of losing one’s license to practice at the Bar.
Contingency fees exist in the civil realm because the attorney "attaches" their fee to the resulting award; if there is no award, there is no fee. Many states also bar attorneys from taking divorce cases on contingency for similar reasons -- there's not an "award" but rather a separation of property. Further, it's an ethical issue that could result in the attorney preferring a plea bargain over going to trial, in order to further their interest in securing payment from the client, rather than taking the client's best interest. This isn't as much of a concern in the civil realm, because someone's not going to prison; they're just settling a dispute between private parties.
The main reason for the express prohibition in the Bar Council of India Rules is probably because lawyers must not be allowed to have ulterior interests in the outcome of the case. They are considered to be of a ‘noble profession’, and are officers of the Court. Their main objective must be Justice and not financial gain.
 If they were interested in the matter, they might adopt unfair means or allow their emotions to get the best of them. Sometimes, the Court may grant an alternate remedy then the one paid for, which the contingency agreement does not cover. In such case it is difficult to determine the lawyer’s fee. This may lead to unimaginable amount of disputes between lawyer and client.
Although theoretically this may seem like a very good reasoning, but in practice the Contingency Fee system is a boon to poor clients. There must be several people in India, who even though they have been wronged, do not take legal action because of the legal expenses and the fear that even after somehow being able to meet those expenses, still losing the suit. If the abovementioned rule is removed from the Bar Council of India Rules, then this transaction can be developed. Written and formal documents can come into existence with clear cut clauses for every possible outcome, as well as whether out-of-pocket expenses are also to be paid are also contingent
This is an application under our disciplinary jurisdiction against Mr. K. L. Gauba. It came to the notice of this Court that Mr. Gauba, who is an advocate of this Court, had entered into an agreement with his client, one Amarnath Bhardwaj, which appeared to be champertous and this Court took the view that the circumstances under which the said agreement had been entered into and the terms of the agreement itself called for an investigation under the disciplinary jurisdiction, and so it was decided to refer this case to the Bar Council.
Accordingly, on May 1, 1953, the learned Chief justice appointed three members of the Bar Council to constitute a Tribunal under Section 11 of the Bar Councils Act for inquiring into this case. Notice of the intended inquiry was served on Mr. Gauba in due course. He appeared before the Bar Council Tribunal, gave his explanation on July 10 and filed an additional statement on August 6, 1953. The matter was then heard by the Members of the Tribunal and they made the report on December 16, 1953. The Tribunal has held that the respondent had entered into an agreement with the client that he should be given half of the profits of the litigation in case of success and this in the opinion of the Tribunal amounted to professional misconduct. After this report was received, notice of the hearing of the present application was served on Mr. Gauba and the matter has thus come before us for final disposal.
It would thus seem that the American decisions are based upon the statutory law upon the subject as obtaining in America. In India, however, we have got the provisions ofSection 23 of the Indian Contract Act according to which the agreements like the agreement in this case being against public policy must be deprecated. I, therefore, agree with my learned brother that Mr. Gauba's conduct in this case was grossly unprofessional and most objectionable
Law Commission fails    
The Law Commission of India has failed to address the issue of excessive litigation cost in the country which is predominantly the result of unfair levy of fees by lawyers. In its 240th report (May 2012), the commission examined several state rules on fees and strangely, pleaded for enhancement of fees! According to the report, fee prescribed in the rules is ‘so meager’.  
Rules do not cover all types of cases or courts and, therefore, the major varieties of fee are outside their ambit. Levying of fee by lawyers in India is not by and large governed by any rules at all, and even in areas covered by the rules, as in civil litigation, they are honored only in their breach.  
Ø The public view of eminence in advocacy also needs to be changed.
The artificial and luxurious misconceptions about professional greatness need to be exposed and fairness in fixation of remuneration recaptured. While recognising the labour behind research, travel and homework, the litigant also should be guaranteed fairness in dealings. We are yet to realise the significance of proper guidance and genuine legal consultation. It is reasonable to charge for a fair advice after due consultation than charging exorbitantly for a fruitless litigation based on an erroneous or casual advice.
The country should change its litigation habits. More egalitarian and sophisticated methods of dispute resolution like arbitration and conciliation are to be encouraged in areas ranging from business to matrimonial disputes. The iron wall between legal profession and society is only to be smashed and the profession demystified. There is a real need to evolve a national movement for fair advocacy which should take in lawmen as well as laymen from all the states. 
Types of Legal Fees:-
The type of fee arrangement that you make with your lawyer will have a significant impact on how much you will pay for the services. Legal fees depend on several factors, including the amount of time spent on your problem; the lawyer's ability, experience, and reputation; the novelty and difficulty of the case; the results obtained; and costs involved. There will be other factors such as the lawyer's overhead expenses (rent, utilities, office equipment, computers, etc.) that may affect the fee charged.
There are several common types of fee arrangements used by lawyers:
  • Consultation Fee: The lawyer may charge a fixed or hourly fee for your first meeting where you both determine whether the lawyer can assist you. Be sure to check whether you will be charged for this initial meeting.
  • Contingency Fees: The lawyer's fee is based on a percentage of the amount awarded in the case. If you lose the case, the lawyer does not get a fee, but you will still have to pay expenses. Contingency fee percentages vary. A one-third fee is common. Some lawyers offer a sliding scale based on how far along the case has progressed before it is settled. Courts may set a limit on the amount of a contingency fee a lawyer can receive. This type of fee arrangement may be charged in personal injury cases, property damage cases, or other cases where a large amount of money is involved. Lawyers may also be prohibited from making contingency fee arrangements in certain kinds of cases such as criminal and child custody matters. Contingency fee arrangements are typically not available for divorce matters, if you are being sued, or if you are seeking general legal advice such as the purchase or sale of a business.
  • Flat Fees: A lawyer charges a specific, total fee. A flat fee is usually offered only if your case is relatively simple or routine such as a will or an uncontested divorce.
  • Hourly Rate: The lawyer will charge you for each hour (or portion of an hour) that the lawyer works on your case. Thus, for example, if the lawyer's fee is $100 per hour and the lawyer works 5 hours, the fee will be $500. This is the most typical fee arrangement. Some lawyers charge different fees for different types of work (legal research versus a court appearance). In addition, lawyers working in large firms typically have different fee scales with more senior members charging higher fees than young associates or paralegals.
  • Referral Fee: A lawyer who refers you to another lawyer may ask for a portion of the total fee you pay for the case. Referral fees may be prohibited under applicable state codes of professional responsibility unless certain criteria are met. Just like other fees, the total fee must be reasonable and you must agree to the arrangement. Your state or local bar association may have additional information about the appropriateness of a referral fee.
  • Retainer Fees: The lawyer is paid a set fee, perhaps based on the lawyer's hourly rate. You can think of a retainer as a "down payment" against which future costs are billed. The retainer is usually placed in a special account and the cost of services is deducted from that account as they accrue. Many retainer fees are non-refundable unless the fee is deemed unreasonable by a court. A retainer fee can also mean that the lawyer is "on call" to handle your legal problems over a period of time. Since this type of fee arrangement can mean several different things, be sure to have the lawyer explain the retainer fee arrangement in detail.
  • Statutory Fee: The fees in some cases may be set by statute or a court may set and approve a fee that you pay. These types of fees may appear in probate, bankruptcy, or other proceedings.
With all types of fee arrangements you should ask what costs and other expenses are covered in the fee. Does the fee include the lawyer's overhead and costs or are those charged separately? How will the costs for staff, such as secretaries, messengers, or paralegals be charged. In contingency fee arrangements, make sure to find out whether the lawyer calculates the fee before or after expenses.
We, "PNJ Legal Consultants" are one of the well known organizations engaged in providing Consultancy Services keeping in mind the Client Service Mentality.
We have a team of highly qualified professionals and time to time training is provided by us as per the requirements. Our team members deliver excellent performance in providing these services and our clients can avail the services at affordable prices.
Our sophisticated team has complete knowledge of various exercises and technicalities that are used in our services. Our services includes Strategy Consulting, GST Consulting, Asset Management, Feasibility Study, International Arbitration, Due Dilligence, Franchisee Consulting, Financial Audits, Operational Audits, Tax Heaven Registrations, Shareholder Agreements, Start up Consulting, IP Consulting, Taxation Services, Accounting system design and Mergers Acquisitions.
Contact at parascs@gmail.com or refer website www.pnjlegal.com

No comments:

Post a Comment