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What Do Lawyers in India Charge? My Personal Experience Revealed

When I first needed legal advice in India, I was totally overwhelmed by all the different fees and the lack of clear information.

After several consultations and hiring different lawyers, I’ve learnt a lot about how lawyers charge in India.

In this post, I’ll share how and what lawyers charge to help make this daunting task a little easier.

First, what happened to me?

My experience comes from filing a writ petition against the Government of India in the Delhi High Court because I was blacklisted and wasn’t allowed to return to my Indian-national wife in New Delhi.

All that happened during the COVID quarantines, and I couldn’t even get home to my home in New Zealand. Nor could my wife leave India to be with me because of travel restrictions. So, I was stuck in Dubai.

My personal advice for similar situations:

  • Use your time fruitfully: If you’re in a similar situation, make the most of your time wherever you’re stuck.
  • Fight back!: Don’t let them see your inaction as a sign of weakness. Strength respects strength, especially in India.
I used my time by travelling to Pakistan and filming a vlog series there until I could return to New Zealand under their old COVID-19 5-star hotel quarantine system.

I also faced a defamation case from a scam call centre I exposed on YouTube.

This is one of the first videos I ever made where Jim Browning and I attempt to takedown a call centre in New Delhi, India, that’s scamming foreigners.

How do lawyers charge in India?

Lawyers use different fee structures based on the nature of the case and the client’s preferences.

Their rate will depend on their experience and reputation, the complexity of the case, and their location (big city lawyers charge more).

Here’s how lawyers might charge in India:

  • Pay-as-you-go: I prefer the pay-as-you-go fee structure, where you pay based on the tasks undertaken. Your lawyer will provide you with a list of tasks and their prices. This arrangement, solidified with a legal services agreement, safeguards the parties.
  • Hourly rate: This is the most common fee arrangement where the lawyer charges a set amount per hour. The rates can vary based on the lawyer’s experience and expertise. In India, hourly rates range from ₹1,000 to ₹30,000 or more.
  • Fixed fee: For certain types of legal work, such as drafting a will or handling a straightforward property transaction, lawyers might charge a fixed fee. This provides clarity and predictability regarding costs.
  • Retainer fee: This involves paying an upfront fee to secure the lawyer’s services. The retainer fee is usually held in a special account, and the lawyer bills against this amount as work is performed.
  • Contingency fee: In some cases, particularly in personal injury claims, lawyers may work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they only get paid if you win the case. The fee is typically a percentage of the settlement amount.

So, what are the realistic costs?

The following is a very rough estimate based on the experience that I outlined above.

Costs will vary widely depending on the simplicity or complexity of your problem.

So, suppose your case is going to court, and you’re hiring someone I’d consider a great lawyer who relates very well to foreign clients because they’ve lived and studied overseas.

Their fee might start at ₹100,000 – ₹200,000 ($1200 – $2400) for the initial research, drafting, and final submission.

Attending court hearings

Beware: Court complexes in India are very confusing and not for beginners. The food and chai are surprisingly great there, though!

Generally, you won’t need to attend court hearings, your lawyer will for you.

You’ll pay around ₹10,000 – ₹20,000 ($120 – $240) for your lawyer to attend each hearing and argue your case.

Miscellaneous costs

This is a photocopy and scanning shop that lawyers commonly use to make multiple copies of their submissions for court.

Small miscellaneous costs, such as printing, filing, scanning, courier, and notary fees, might occasionally total up to ₹5,000 ($60) after every important document you need to submit.

Are cheaper options available?

Nearly half the practicing lawyers in India are fake: Bar Council chairman tells chief justice.
According to a 2017 investigation, nearly half the practising lawyers in India are fake.

Certainly, cheaper fixed-price options are available, but remember, you get what you pay for.

If you hire a cheap lawyer in India, several issues could arise:

  1. Poor communication: They may not keep you informed about your case’s progress or promptly respond to your queries.
  2. Missed court dates: Due to heavy caseloads, they might miss important court dates, which can negatively impact your case.
  3. Lack of preparation: They might not spend enough time preparing for your case, leading to weaker arguments and a higher chance of unfavourable outcomes.
  4. Limited resources: Cheaper lawyers may not have the necessary resources or support staff to handle complex cases effectively.
  5. Inexperience: Less experienced lawyers might lack the skills and knowledge required to navigate complicated legal issues.
  6. Poor negotiation skills: They might be less effective in negotiating settlements or plea deals.
  7. Ethical concerns: In some cases, cheaper lawyers might cut corners or engage in unethical practices to manage their workload or save costs.
  8. High turnover: They might frequently switch cases or clients to maintain their income, leading to inconsistency in handling your case.

So, weigh the cost savings against the potential risks and closely monitor their work to avoid any issues.

Beware! My bad experience with an expensive lawyer

I actually managed to hire a substandard and expensive lawyer! Price doesn’t always guarantee quality. I’ve written another post on how to hire a lawyer, please read it to avoid this.

So what happened?

I thought I’d hired a professional and trustworthy lawyer, so I just expected him to turn up for the hearings like a professional. But he missed a hearing and didn’t tell me!

Other foreigners have had this happen to them, too. It’s a huge red flag, as turning up for hearings is Law 101.

When something goes wrong like this, such lawyers will try and downplay it and make excuses. They may not even tell you! I found out because I was checking court records after each hearing. At that point, it might be time to find another lawyer.

Do not be afraid to change lawyers if you find the one you hired to be ineffective.

How to avoid being overcharged

Being overcharged by lawyers is the biggest risk when hiring one. Here’s what to do to try to avoid that:

  • Request a Fee Agreement: Ask for a written fee agreement that outlines the fee structure, estimated costs, and payment terms. This will help avoid misunderstandings and ensure transparency.
  • Compare quotes: Don’t hesitate to consult multiple lawyers and compare their quotes. This can give you a better sense of the market rate and help you find a lawyer who offers good value for money.
  • Ask about additional costs: Inquire about any additional costs that might arise, such as court fees, administrative charges, or costs for expert witnesses.

One major warning!

The next line is one of the most important in this entire post. I made this mistake!

Never pay a lawyer 100% upfront! Once they have your money, they sometimes stop working on your case. They consider the job done when they get their money. Pay 50% upfront and 50% once you’re happy the job is complete.

Can you negotiate lawyer fees?

While it might feel uncomfortable, everything is negotiable in India, especially if you have researched and have multiple quotes to compare.

Here are some tips:

  • Be clear about your budget: Let the lawyer know your budget constraints upfront.
  • Discuss payment plans: Some lawyers may offer payment plans or allow you to pay in instalments, making the legal fees more manageable.
  • Value-based pricing: If the lawyer charges by the hour, ask if there are ways to reduce costs, such as delegating certain tasks to junior associates or paralegals.

Need more help?

If you’re looking for a trusted lawyer in India, I’m happy to provide my personal recommendation. Feel free to contact me directly for more details.

Do you have a question or just want to say thank you? Please post it in the comment section below.

By Karl Rock

Karl Rock, is a Hindi speaking Kiwi ex-pat who take viewers behind the scenes of incredible India and its neighbours. He has visited every state and union territory in India, and its culturally similar neighbours – Pakistan and Bangladesh, and aims to make others fall in love with India and the subcontinent.

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