Our point of view
Mr. Šimberský, you have been working in advocacy for more than 20 years. Can you tell me when am I, a regular citizen, still able to solve my own legal problem by myself, with advice from my friends or with the help of the Internet and when do I need to hire a paid professional?
There is no simple and unequivocal answer to this question, at least not in the field of civil law. The role of life experiences, personal attitudes, other participants in the matter, and of course the very thing that is being discussed, are always important. The experience of others is of course essential too. Clearly, however, it is better, and usually much cheaper, to come to the lawyer as soon as possible, not after the problem develops into a critical state. You almost always need the services of a lawyer if you are a foreigner and enter legal relationships in the local environment.
How do I choose a lawyer, what expectations should be met?
Advocacy is an exclusive service. Usually, the provider of such service is found via recommendation. It's very similar to a dentist. If you are looking for a dentist, you also first ask friends and acquaintances, whether someone in your neighborhood knows of someone good and experienced, someone who has the confidence of those in whom you have confidence. You will not be looking for the cheapest, or even the most expensive, you will be looking for the best, the best you can afford...
And if I have no tip?
Then you search for someone on the internet, for example, someone you've heard about. But you must trust your intuition, perhaps even the impression obtained from websites, from other written information, etc.
You say advocacy is a special service. How is advocacy different from other services?
Legal services can be provided only by highly skilled professionals with distinctive education, follow-up work experience, and other qualities. Most of us probably recognize the level of quality of a newly painted room by a painter. But a normal layperson does not have the chance to find out whether the attorney has written well, for example, a lawsuit or appeal, or even just a contract of a sale.
But does this also apply to other professional services?
Yes, but with law, it is even more different. Quality and expertise may not correspond with the results achieved. Not even with expectations, both with the client and sometimes with the attorney himself. This is because, unlike other fields and areas in advocacy, a lot of unknowns enter the case. First, the other parties – most often with opposing interests, and then the third parties – usually arbitrators. The expert will know if the accounting officer billed everything in accordance with the accounting standards. But even the best lawsuit written by the most respected legal practitioner does not even guarantee that you will win the dispute or that a dispute will arise from a contract. Even if there is an objective right on your side and you have all the right documents collected, it does not guarantee that you will win the dispute or that nothing else will go wrong. It is always a bit like a lottery, except that your bets are less or more professionally supported. Therefore, in principle, a lawyer is not responsible for the outcome of the matter as such. He is obliged to do everything he thinks is best for his client. But there is no certainty, everything is strongly subjective. Therefore, while providing this service, the mutual trust between the attorney and the client is an elemental necessity.
Advocacy is a paid service. How are such legal services charged?
The most common is today the so-called "time reward", i.e. the hourly rate. It is a proven and probably the fairest model, but unfortunately, nothing is faultless. There is no "rate" for the amount of services that can be done per hour, apart from the personal participation in negotiations, where the amount of time is given by his measurement. However, the vast majority of legal services is now accumulated in written outputs and here we can experience different performance and productivity of individuals, different delivery of thoroughness, different understanding of the quality requirement, different manifestation of professional or life experience, talent... Regardless of the differences in the individual legal assignments, which are mainly reflected in the fact that it is very difficult to give any volume estimates in advance. Although there are some customs used while calculating the prize of the service, both in advocacy in general and within individual offices, however, the client is usually not familiar with them.
How should I understand the term "customs used while calculating the prize"?
This means that at a certain quality standard of a legal service, you can almost never be able to count all the real time that is spend in order to finish some certain assignment. If you take the service seriously, you must check things that you would never justify to your client. Some specific things are then repeatedly consulted in the office. You must think of all the possible solutions and then is the time to sit and write. In addition, you must educate yourself continually, read professional literature and court judicature, observe current socio-political events... All this is reflected in your written output. However, we will get paid for the time we actually spend writing or even only for the time our client is "able" to pay. And these are the customs within individual law firms or specific lawyers.
If I understand it correctly, services of a lawyer with a rate of 2.000 CZK per hour can be more expensive than services of someone who has an hourly rate 100% higher?
Theoretically, yes. However, at a different level it may be that the rate of 5.000 CZK per hour does not necessarily guarantee better service...
So how should I decide?
First, you need to realize that advocacy is an exclusive service, which is quite expensive. Furthermore, if we take finances into an account, not every issue should be managed by a lawyer. When choosing a lawyer in relation to the price of his service, it is necessary to find out about the prices of legal services in advance. You need to evaluate the issue that is being dealt with. If you can express it with some financial equivalent, do that too. And from all this you can already assume how important is it to you and what price of legal service is acceptable to you, a client. You need to realize that the higher the financial value of the case is, the greater responsibility the lawyer bears. Generally speaking, should it be one-off business, the costs on legal services in units of percent of the case can be found adequate; should it be long-term issue, typically dispute over property, the costs at the amount of a quarter of the value of the case can still be found adequate. However, there are lots of things left that cannot be expressed in money…
After this consideration, it is advisable to meet a particular lawyer, discuss everything in person and, at best, try how the cooperation works out. Over the years I have observed a fairly simple rule. If there is a mutual sympathy between the client and the lawyer on a personal level, if there is everything comprehensible for the client, if the environment of the law firm suits the client, if there is no lack of understanding between the client and the whole team, and on the other hand, if the lawyer values client as a person, if he respects the client’s approaches and attitudes, there is rarely a dissatisfaction with the amount charged for the service and the benefits of the service provided.