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Old 30.11.2012, 20:52
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Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Dear members,

I'm in difficult situation, I've consulted a lawyer to see if he could help me, we have talked twice on the phone and once personally for him to say that I better negotiate directly, that the best in my case was an amicable agreement between parts. Then he showed me a bill of 890CHF.

I was presenting the case, which he refused to work on and still want money for that?

He has tried to make me sign a vollmacht, which I never did, because I'm very cautious with signing documents.

I've read that in the Swiss law, a lawyer can only charge after one has signed a Vollmacht or previously agreed between parts.

Could you please share what you know about it?

Thanks in advance
Lotusflower
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Old 30.11.2012, 21:02
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Normal protocol when requesting professional services tends to be a consultation at an hourly rate which providing you then utilize said services is deducted from invoice. If in event you do not use services then the consultation is billed. That's how most firms I have worked for operate.
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Old 01.12.2012, 02:02
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

I'm slightly reluctant to say anything as I don't know Swiss law. However ...

The fact that he tried to get you to sign something but you haven't makes me think he may just be trying it on, that it may be possible that there is no contract and you're not obliged to pay. Of course, that's not definitive and there are other factors such was a consultation fee ever mentioned or do they advertise and mention a consultation fee. They may be able to argue implied or understood contract if that's the case. Depending on how much and what the nature of his 'advice' was (ie was he just finding out whether he could act for you or did he advise you what the law was and what you should do) .. Hm, if it were England and Wales and there was no upfront consultation fee agreed in advance I'd argue it. But it isn't England.

Tricky. Good luck.
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Old 01.12.2012, 02:17
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

It's a little odd that he tried to get you to sign something and yet no mention of charge or fee was made ...

Very odd that terms were not discussed. Take a look at the bill he's presented you, is there any wording to suggest it was discussed, such as

"For advice given, as detailed below, on terms as agreed"


Hm.
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Old 01.12.2012, 07:44
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Signing a vollmacht or not has nothing to do with paying his professional fees.

Now...reading between the lines and without knowning what your issue is...his advice was to sign a Vollmacht, which you declined, he then suggested you negotiate some mutually agreeable settlement with the other party....you got his advice, so you should pay up.

I have previously taken advice from a lawyer in London and an architect in Zurich. Both times one or two brief meetings to discuss ideas. Both time I was invoiced and was not at all surprised (these were not 'sales' opportunities that they promoted, but requests from me for their advice). My only disappointment in the case of the architect was the level of fee for what I considered poor advice... :-(
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Old 01.12.2012, 08:15
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

I find it very odd that people expect anyone to work for free. I don't think I would use a Dentist or Lawyer who even offered to work for free! Both services are available at various price levels & there is a reason.
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Old 01.12.2012, 08:23
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

^^^

What Fatmanfilms said.

Two phone calls and an meeting with a lawyer and you expect it to be free?? Maybe it would be, but only on your planet...
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Old 01.12.2012, 09:32
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

All of that is true, but not mentioning fees or rates, not agreeing fees before any transaction - bogus.
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Old 01.12.2012, 10:11
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

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I've consulted a lawyer to see if he could help me, we have talked twice on the phone and once personally for him to say that I better negotiate directly...Then he showed me a bill of 890CHF.
Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

Two conversations on the phone and one personal meeting?

Pay up.
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Old 01.12.2012, 10:29
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

You know the Story about the man who asked a lawyer "will you answer 2 questions for CHF200?"
And the lawyer answered "yes, what is your second question?*
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Old 01.12.2012, 13:18
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Frustrating to get unexpected bills! Based on what you wrote here, I'd say there's some responsibility on both sides.

In my experience, your lawyer should have told you on the first call/communication about fees moving forward. It's professional and expected that he/she would outline a retainer fee..etc. I've certainly never had a lawyer fail to outline that cost prior to giving any advice about my situation. But you should know that beyond that first communication, there will surely be some charges.

In this instance, you owe some fees but maybe not to the extent you think? Try talking to the lawyer and negotiate something lower given the lack of communication on both sides about costs.

Little story about an experience I had six years ago. I had a non-paying client and made an appointment with a lawyer in-office. He met with me for about an hour, during which time he asked details about my case and also explained his retainer fee and hourly fee. He ended by outlining his next step, which involved drafting a letter to my client. At the end of the meeting, I paid something like 5000 to retain him. What happened was that my client got wind through an acquaintance that I'd met with a lawyer and he paid up in full within days. I contacted the lawyer to let him know. He had not yet done the letter and he refunded me the entire retainer. I was shocked and amazed he hadn't at least deducted the cost of the first visit. I did a girly visit to drop off some chocolates and a thank you card to express my surprise and appreciation for what he did.

Since then, I've referred both a friend and a family member to him, who did use his services and were very satisfied.
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Old 01.12.2012, 14:08
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Retaining a lawyer is a mandate agreement. There does not have to be any specific agreement on the fees or payment because the law on mandate agreements states "Remuneration is payable where agreed or customary." (http://www.admin.ch/ch/e/rs/220/a394.html).

And since lawyers rarely do anything for free, remuneration is customary. The question of course is what is a customary hourly rate. Questions like that can be raised with the Commission of Legal Fees of the Zurich Bar Association (http://www.zav.ch/verband/honorarkom...l?newLangID=en).

As a matter of professional ethics and bar rules, a lawyer should inform his client on taking on a mandate about the basics arrangement of his fee arrangement (Art. 18 Swiss Bar Rules). Generally, he or she will tell you that he bills his time and what his hourly rate is. However, even if does not, the rules on mandate agreements still apply.
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Old 02.12.2012, 20:59
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Re: Lawyer charging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Thank you all very much for the replies. I would like to make it very clear that I do not expect anyone to work for free, but to pay for work, not for a consultation.

The analogy to my situation is when you ask a painter for a quote to paint your house, he comes and say he cannot do this type of work, yet he asks for payment for the visit, only after the visit has happened, without agreeing with the costs previously. That's how I fell.

I'm a consultant and I just charge my clients for my work after I convince them that we can do the work they are looking for. Perhaps I was too naive...

Well, if anyone has more ideas of how to deal with it, I'm happy to read them.
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Old 02.12.2012, 22:30
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Re: Lawyer charging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

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Thank you all very much for the replies. I would like to make it very clear that I do not expect anyone to work for free, but to pay for work, not for a consultation.

The analogy to my situation is when you ask a painter for a quote to paint your house, he comes and say he cannot do this type of work, yet he asks for payment for the visit, only after the visit has happened, without agreeing with the costs previously. That's how I fell.

I'm a consultant and I just charge my clients for my work after I convince them that we can do the work they are looking for. Perhaps I was too naive...

Well, if anyone has more ideas of how to deal with it, I'm happy to read them.
A painter gives a quotation. A lawyer gives a consultation (your own words). The point is whether a consultation is work. Clearly your lawyer thinks it is.

As a consultant yourself, you will have had many times when you've had your brains picked on the phone by a theoretical new client and I bet you wished you had charged. Maybe you learned something from you three consultations with the lawyer?

How to deal with it? Write and say you find the charges excessive. But be prepared to pay. Then move on...
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Old 03.12.2012, 00:35
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Hey
I had a similar experience.
(600chf to install Swisscom!)

Long story short, they tried charging me for three hours of work that i hadnt agreed to, that i wasnt told about, and that they tried to sneak onto the invoice.

I had my assistant ring them up to demand a minute by minute account of exactly what they did in those three hours, and proof that they did it. Once they proved a basis for three hours work, i would pay them. Until then, i would only pay for the work i saw them do.


This was a week ago, and as of yet, no response. not even a follow up call.

Switzerland is expensive, but dont pay for work that wasnt carried out, or if they didnt warn you or tell you they were going to charge you. By swiss law, they cannot charge you for work you did not agree to, and you have to be notified of prep work too. He should have told you he was charging for the consultation. If not (and he didnt advertise the fact) you have grounds to refuse.

There seems to be a lot of people on EF who would simply pay up on the pretence of 'This is Switzerland, its standard practice here'. Dont fall for it. A con is a con, regardless of flag. You worked hard for that money, its only fair that he does too.
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Old 03.12.2012, 00:39
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Re: Lawyer charging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

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A painter gives a quotation. A lawyer gives a consultation (your own words). The point is whether a consultation is work. Clearly your lawyer thinks it is.

As a consultant yourself, you will have had many times when you've had your brains picked on the phone by a theoretical new client and I bet you wished you had charged. Maybe you learned something from you three consultations with the lawyer?

How to deal with it? Write and say you find the charges excessive. But be prepared to pay. Then move on...

I consider those opportunities a chance to showcase my abilities and show how im better then my competition. And i dont tell them everything. If they want something very specific, or that would take a large amount of my time and resources, then i charge. 9 times out of 10, the customer accepts and pays for my services. Thats just good business. All my customers accept this. Some even like the fact i dont charge for a 10 minute consultation.
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Old 03.12.2012, 09:19
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Re: Lawyer charging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

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Thank you all very much for the replies. I would like to make it very clear that I do not expect anyone to work for free, but to pay for work, not for a consultation.
Sorry, but a consultation IS work. While this lawyer was chatting with you on the phone (twice) and in person, he was not able to do work for other clients. He shared information and advice with you, which basically means he was working for you. You obviously felt good enough about the first phone call to make a second one and visit in person. And yet you think his time is not worth anything? How much time would you estimate your "consultations" took up? If he's billing you CHF 890 these were not simple yes or no questions that can be answered in two minutes.

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As a consultant yourself, you will have had many times when you've had your brains picked on the phone by a theoretical new client and I bet you wished you had charged. Maybe you learned something from you three consultations with the lawyer?

How to deal with it? Write and say you find the charges excessive. But be prepared to pay. Then move on...
AbFab is right. How many times have people asked you for advice and you just gave it away for free, even after doing some research on your own time? I know you are new to the Forum, but after you've been here a while you'll see lots of similar stories. People call out a company to get a quote for work on their home and then are shocked that they have to pay for the quote. I don't know why people expect others to put in time and effort and not get paid for it.

That said, maybe you are not responsible for the full 890 he's asking. Surely it has an itemization for the time? Or you might be able to negotiate the rate down since it seems you didn't realize what the cost would be?

A final note - consultations with lawyers (here or elsewhere) are never free unless the lawyer tells you up front that it's free.
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Old 03.12.2012, 12:07
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Dear OP - I hope you have realised now that most people on EF are perfect and have never had a similar situation happen to them, and that you are sorry to display your human failings to such an amazing group of people

Truth is, the same thing happened to me, and probably happened to 90% of the people on here - you call an expert for advice (rather than something more tangible), you get the advice and think - "What a nice guy - just doing that without demanding payment" - and then you get a bill and think "What a cheating f***er"

Then we calm down and think - "You know what, his business is selling advice, I took it, I should pay", and promise yourself to check in advance next time.

In terms of what to do about it, you probably don't have a legal case to challenge formally and he's a lawyer, so you'd lose. What I would probably do is call him or her, explain that you didn't understand in advance the size of the charges because it wasn't clearly explained by him/her, that you would never have agreed to such high charges, and ask whether there is any room for negotiation on it

Good luck
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Old 03.12.2012, 12:19
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Re: Lawyer chaging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

Nothing is free in Switzerland.

If you want something free you have to pay for it

cheers
SC
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Old 03.12.2012, 12:37
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Re: Lawyer charging for consulting meetings prior to a price negociation

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The analogy to my situation is when you ask a painter for a quote to paint your house, he comes and say he cannot do this type of work, yet he asks for payment for the visit, only after the visit has happened, without agreeing with the costs previously. That's how I fell.
The analogy is very apt, since many people will invoice you for a quote, including builders, plumbers, electricians, and painters, even if you decide not to hire them.
There's plenty of experience of such precedents on EF.

As for the OP, in that situation, I'd be surprised not to receive an invoice. Like others said, two phone calls and a face-to-face is not going to come free from a lawyer. Maybe he shold have made that clear, or maybe you should have enquired beforehand about fees.
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