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Members of the Law Society of Botswana (LSB) have finalized and endorsed a proposal presented by the council on the review of Pro Deo Fees and Party and Party as well as Attorney and Client Scale Tariffs which will be sent to the Chief Justice for determination.
Attorney fees are often hourly, flat-rate or contingent fee but in Botswana lawyers mostly charge hourly. Sources suggest that when lawyers charge a flat-fee rather than billing by the hour, they do not always end up representing the best interest of clients.
According to a communique shared with this publication, the Law Society of Botswana wants fees and tariffs adopted by the special general meeting to be adopted and the Rules of the High Court to be amended to reflect such proposals; and any other related matter.
Specific recommendations were made as follows: Regarding hourly rates, that the following apply as the new tariff on Party and Party scale. Party and Party Costs are those costs which were necessarily incurred in the course of prosecuting or defending a claim. The maxim is that the “losing side” has to pay the “winning side’s” legal costs.
Under this rule, the new LSB hourly rates stipulate that a Pupil Attorney with 0-2 years will be entitled to P400, those with 2-5 are entitled to P1 500, those with 5-10 will be entitled to P2 500, 10-15 will earn P3 300 while senior lawyers with over 15 years’ experience will be entitled to P4 000.
Attorney Client Scale
These are the costs for which the client is liable to his attorney for services rendered or disbursements incurred on his behalf. They belong to the attorney and not the client. These costs are governed by a private agreement or contract entered into between the attorney and his client at the outset of the mandate. The LSB says guidelines are needed to protect both the consumer and service provider and proposes that: Pupil attorney be entitled to P400, those with 0-2 years be entitled to P1 200, those with 2-5 be entitled to P1 800, those with 5-10 years be entitled to P3 000, 10-15 will earn P4 000 while senior lawyers with over 15 years’ experience will be entitled to P5 000.
Pro Deo Fees
This is professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment. Unlike traditional volunteer-ism, it is service that uses the specific skills of professionals to provide services to those who are unable to afford them.
LSB proposes that the rate be the same as Party and Party scale. Regarding the disbursements, it was proposed that the government rates should apply. The Taxing Master should be given the discretion to add or adjust the tariff in accordance with the annual inflation rate as published in the Government Gazette.
A party represented by a lawyer who wins a case in the Magistrates Court is entitled to recover some of their legal costs. This cost entitlement is called ‘party/party costs’. This is expected to shield the accused persons who have been subjected to an inexperienced lawyer due to minimal monetary benefits of pro deo. In the past, the LSB raised concerns that an increase in the pro deo rates together with timely taxation of Bills of Costs would also go a long way towards ensuring that properly equipped practitioners made themselves available to handle matters.
The LSB Spokesperson Tebogo Moipolai told The Botswana Gazette last week that lawyers have for so many years been running without any hike and that it was high time the fees are reviewed. He added that the proposal has been adopted by LSB with amendments which he explained are not major.