Lawyers Demand Hefty Charges From Divorcing Couples

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By Robert Tapfumanenyi

ZIMBABWEAN couples seeking formal divorce should think twice about the move as it costs US$1 200 per hour to hire a divorce lawyer for the plaintiff and US$800 for the defendant in cases of uncontested divorce.

The fee, according to the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ), is for with or without consent paper, with minimal negotiations and appearance in court, where necessary.

For general professional services, a legal practitioner with 30 years of experience charges between US$310.00 and US$350.00 per hour with an unregistered law graduate whose name is registered by the law society, charging between US$30-US$60.

This is time reasonably and actually spent in personal attendance by a legal practitioner in performing his or her mandate, including taking instructions, telephone calls, attendance in court, office of record, research, preparation, drafting, dictation and perusal of letters and documents.

Those with one year to 11 months of experience charge between US$60 and US$90, with those who have two to four years practice charging between US$90 and US$120.

Those with 15 to 19 years of experience will charge between US$210 and US$270; 10 to 14 years (US$150 to US$210) and five to nine years US$120 to US$150, respectively.

Legal practitioners with 20 to 29 years of experience charge between US$270 and US$310.00.

A legal practitioner shall be entitled to charge standard fees instead of calculating his or her fees, where basic work is involved.

On the sale agreement (residential or farm), the legal practitioner shall charge US$500 or 1% of the selling prices, whichever is the greater and for business or shares, it costs US$800 or 2 % of the selling prices.

In order to assist the profession and the public in this regard and to seek a degree of uniformity and consistency, the tariff is recommended by the Council of the Law Society of Zimbabwe for application to all legal work undertaken by legal practitioners, save where some other tariff is applied by law or where the client has agreed to some other rate or basis of charging.

“Thus, party and party fees in civil litigation, conveyancing fees, collection commission and deceased estate administration fees are not covered by this tariff whereas legal practitioner and client fees in civil litigation and fees for criminal and general non-litigious work are covered,” LSZ said.

“It should be noted that by law 68(1) requires that a legal practitioner’s fees in non-litigious matters should be fair and reasonable in the circumstance.

“Legal practitioners who exceed this recommended tariff do so at their peril.

“If they feel the tariff is inadequate or inequitable or likely to prejudice a good relationship with a client, they are welcome to approach the Council for guidance.”

Where a legal performs work on instructions emanating from outside Zimbabwe, he or she shall be entitled both to charge a fee similar to that which would be charged by a legal practitioner of comparable experience and ability in the country from which the work emanates and to charge such fee in the currency of that country, provided always that the provisions of the exchange control and any other applicable regulations are observed.