Part 1 of this Article discussed the first three key factors you should seriously consider before suing someone. The next three key factors, namely, your legal fees, his legal fees, and the stress and uncertainty of litigation, are discussed here.
4. Your Legal Fees
The rules governing how lawyers charge take into account various factors like urgency, importance, quantum of claim, complexity, novelty of issues, number of hours spent, number and seniority of lawyers involved, etc, some or all of which may justify the lawyer increasing how much he charges.
This is the question asked by clients (or former clients) with bated breath, “so, how much do you charge?” In response to which the lawyer pauses for dramatic effect, looks to the corner of his eye in deep concentration as he crunches the figures, and a deadening silence fills the room. It may be time to break your ancient piggy bank.
Litigation is an expensive affair, and because of the unpredictable nature of litigation, lawyers generally charge on an hourly basis by the hundreds (or even more than S$1,000 per hour for Senior Counsel). Some lawyers may agree to cap the fees, either in total or for each relevant stage of proceedings. Alternatively, some lawyers may agree to a fixed or agreed fee. The rules governing how lawyers charge take into account various factors like urgency, importance, quantum of claim, complexity, novelty of issues, number of hours spent, number and seniority of lawyers involved, etc, some or all of which may justify the lawyer increasing how much he charges. There are also big firm scale legal fees, where the hourly rate is generally higher than smaller firms, and more lawyers are involved per file. This is compared to medium or smaller firms with smaller teams or a single lawyer with lower hourly rate(s).
It is important to note that if you win the lawsuit, the Court may order the losing party to pay you legal costs. This is called party-to-party costs, which is to be distinguished from what you have to pay your own lawyers, which is called solicitor and client costs. Party-to-party costs fixed or assessed by the Court are generally in the range of 40-70% of a party’s solicitor and client costs. Your legal fees to your own lawyers are payable regardless of whether you are awarded party-to-party costs or whether you are able to successfully recover them from the debtor. In other words, even if you win the case, you will still be out-of-pocket for legal fees as between you and your lawyer.
5. His Legal Fees
If you lose your lawsuit, you may be ordered to pay the legal fees of the debtor. This is on top of your own legal fees. Party-to-party legal fees in the High Court may be in the region of around S$10,000 to S$20,000 per day of trial. This works out to around S$100,000 to S$200,000 for a 10-day High Court trial (or more). I emphasize again, this is on top of your own legal fees, which you have to pay to your own lawyers whatever the outcome. In other words, whether you win or lose your case, you will in all likelihood be out-of-pocket for legal fees. Party-to-party legal fees fixed or assessed by the Subordinate Courts are generally much lower than in the High Court.
6. Stress and Uncertainty of Litigation
Litigation is stressful, unpredictable and time-consuming. You may spend long days or even weeks in your lawyer’s office or in Court. Being cross-examined may also be an unpleasant or even traumatic experience, although generally speaking, if you speak the truth, things should go relatively well. Importantly, no matter how good your lawyer is, or how well prepared everyone is, and notwithstanding a rock-solid case, the results cannot be guaranteed. Furthermore, there is the possibility of a favorable decision being overturned on appeal, for which there may be several rounds of appeal, sometimes all the way up to the Court of Appeal, which may take several years to resolve.
In the meantime, you eat, sleep and breathe litigation, and you may find yourself speaking to your children like this – “I don’t like the sound of your pleadings. The evidence tendered by you that you are not responsible for being disobedient is weak and I reject your claim.” When that happens, please do check your blood pressure, stress level and happiness quotient. Litigation has turned you into someone you ought not to be.
So there you have it, six key considerations before suing someone. The next time someone cuts you off in traffic or calls you un-mentionable names, and your spontaneous reaction is uncontrollable anger and an overwhelming desire to sue that person for everything he is worth, calm down or think about these factors for a day or two. Or three. You may find that counting the cost beforehand may save us and society from being a litigious one.
The usual disclaimer: All opinions expressed on www.singaporelitigationlawyer.com are entirely my own. Importantly, my opinions do not constitute legal advice and you should definitely formally engage a lawyer to confirm, vary or refute my views.
To Sue or Not to Sue: Demystifying Litigation in Singapore @ www.singaporelitigationlawyer.com © Dominic Chan, a Singapore litigation lawyer. All rights reserved.