The legal fee is the remuneration a legal practitioner gets when he offers legal services to a client In Nigeria. The legal fees are prescribed in the scale of charges for legal practitioners.
Any fee a legal practitioner is to get from the client in compensation for work done must not be tainted with illegality, excessively high or ridiculously low. Such fees must conform to the rules of ethics.
The scale set out the prescribed fees to be collected by legal practitioners for handling a purchase or sale of a house and other related transaction and is divided into scale I, II and III. Nevertheless, a lawyer may bill a client on an agreed percentage by both parties for property’s transaction.
THE PERCENTAGE FEE
The percentage fee is more often used as a method by lawyers while calculating the legal fees for buying a house in Nigeria. It is a method used by the legal practitioner to charge a client in conveyance, leasehold and other related transactions. It is generally calculated by deducting 10% of the total consideration of the monetary value involved in the transaction. A charge of 10% need not be static; it may be lesser especially where the work done is lower and the transaction’s price or consideration is very high. Also a legal practitioner may decide to charge beyond 10% especially where the work done in the course of the transaction is extremely high and the consideration is low. The purpose of the percentage fee usually charged in legal practice is the return for providing investment advice and/or handling the purchase or sale of a real estate on behalf of their client.
Where a legal practitioner commences a conveyance transaction at the point of buying a house for the client to the perfection of title documents he may charge a percentage fee of 10% for getting the house, plus the fixed fee for investigating title at appropriate authorities, preparing search report, perusing, drafting and perfection of title documents. The legal practitioner can, on the other hand, alienate each work done and charge separately.
It is, however, important to know that the agency fee for property sale in Nigeria is different from a legal fee for buying a house in Nigeria. These are two distinctive charges where an agent is involved in the property’s transaction. An agent charges the agency fee for marketing and getting a buyer for the house, while the legal fee for buying a house in Nigeria includes is the fee a lawyer who is to conduct a search on the property and draft the conveyancing agreement will charge the client that involves him or her in the transaction.
A legal practitioner representing a vendor and buyer in one and same conveyance transaction is entitled to charge full fees from the vendor who intend to sell his house and half the fee from the buyer.
FACTORS TO PUT INTO CONSIDERATION WHEN CHARGING A LEGAL FEE
There are certain factors a legal practitioner must put into consideration before charging his fee in other not to run at a loss or deliver an inchoate or defective service to his or her client. Such factors include:
The solicitor for the buyer gets his remuneration from the buyer. Where he sells on behalf of a vendor he is expected to get his commission from the vendor. However, there are some arrangements where the legal practitioner can receive from both ends i.e. both vendor and purchaser.
It is important to have an idea of how legal practitioner or law firm bills for certain legal services, such knowledge will correct the general notion of legal services been expensive and as well that a lawyer might have over-charged a client.
Finally, it is important to keep in mind that under Nigerian law, it is only a legal practitioner that is entitled to draft a land or property agreement for a fee. And such fee may vary depending on the consideration and circumstances of the transaction.
Written by Real Estate Law Department at Resolution Law Firm, Nigeria