The law-profession is a noble-profession wherein the clients'-concerns come
before the lawyers' own, and ethics prevails over the lawyers' own
self-interest. The cost of legal services varies because attorneys base their
fees on the clients' ability to pay. Although a client's poverty may necessitate
charging-less or nothing-at-all, it cannot be justified by his or her ability to
pay for the service. We see lawyers like Ram Jethmalani charging as high as 22
While there's divided opinion on this issue, with some lawyers arguing that
without fee cap, lawyers would lose the notion of being a "noble profession" and
turn into mere commodities that land up in the hands of the highest auctioneer.
Others like Dhushyant Dave questioned whether the judges who were once
attorneys, had not charged exorbitant fees? and how ironically now they believe
fees ought to be capped.
He exclaimed how we do not live in a communist country where everything must be
regulated. Courts ruled-that 'there should be a check on commercialization to
the point of exploiting the plaintiff and inappropriate behavior to the point of
intimidating the judge, a person's right to prompt and affordable justice should
also be investigated if there has been a professional duty violation towards the
court and the litigant.'
Ethics Of Attorney Fees.
An attorney should never take dirty/unethical money. But distinctions should be
made as to what is "dirty/unethical money"? For-example- A man accused of
robbing a bank-and-pocketing Rs60,000 suggests paying his lawyer a fee equal
to-that sum. Before accepting it, should the lawyer first investigate how
the-defendant acquired that-sum? Let us say he does look-into-it and discovers
that Rs60,000 was deposited in the accused's bank account the day following the
Would the charge be against the law? Let us say Rs60,000 had been in that
account prior to the dubious deposit. Then what? Ethically speaking if the
deposited money was proved to be robbed money, the lawyer should not accept it.
But in-the-second case where the money was deposited-in-the-bank prior to the
robbing, it is ethically right to accept this money. This same
fundamental-problem is seen in various-other-situations.
Also "professional misconduct" itself is not defined in the Advocates-Act or in
the BCI (Bar Council of India) rules. How can conduct be regulated if it remains
Chapter 2 of "professional ethics for lawyers" by Raju Ramchandran talks about
ethical-factors that attorneys should consider when determining their fees and
retainers, highlighting the importance-of-transparency in fee-arrangements and
written-fee-agreements (in-order-to-avoid disagreements-over-fees,
Lawyers are expected to be open and honest with their clients about the reason
behind their fees without any ambiguity, fee-amount, the range of legal services
they offer, and how they are to be paid. According to Bar-Council-of-India Rule
46, 1961, all attorneys are required to keep in mind that any client who truly
needs representation should get it, even if they are unable-to-pay for it
entirely or adequately. Advocates have a duty to ensure free counsel is
available to those who are oppressed and need legal aid.
Limitations Of Attorney Fees In Criminal Cases
In America, according to the Model-Rules, "a lawyer's fee shall be reasonable."
According to the ABA Code, the assessment of the fee's excessiveness must be
made from the perspective of a "lawyer of ordinary prudence." The test appears
to be whether the fee is reasonable since a "clearly excessive" fee under the
rules was defined as one that was higher than usual.
The Eight-Factor-Test-of-reasonableness was applied. But the test-rules are
poorly drafted and complicated, and are too lucid, they are intended-to-be
construed in-accordance-with-their purpose. Nonetheless, we discover that it
is not an easy mechanism to weigh a lawyer's work and decipher whether he
charges reasonably for it due to a lack of clear-cut test.
Repercussions Of Exorbitant Attorney Fees In India
Charges that are excessive, charges without a written fee agreement, and the
mixing of client money with the lawyer's own money are examples of such
infractions. Lawyers who break ethical guidelines may be subject to disciplinary
action from the Bar-Council-of-India, which could lead to the loss of their
right to practice-law and be subject to civil liability and damage claims from
Supreme Court Recognizing The Issue Of Exorbitant Attorney Fees:
We see the Supreme Court acknowledging the issue of high legal costs in the case
Sunitha v. State of Telangana. Among other issues of whether fee can be
determined with reference to percentage of the decretal amount charged? and
whether the calculation of such fee can be unilateral and if the client-disputes
the amount charged, whether the burden to prove the contract of fee will be on
the advocate or the client?, We should concern ourselves with whether the
professional-ethics require regulation of-exploitation in the matter of fee
charged by advocates?
Cases like KL Gauba1 were-looked-at, in-which it was determined that fees
that's dependent on a case's success and that gives the attorney an interest or
involvement in matter of the subject tend to degrade the status of the
In Mr. G.: A Senior Advocate, A lawyer's claim that's based on the subject
matter's share is unethical and professional misconduct.
Court held that, high-legal-fees are a violation of equal-justice for the
underprivileged. Therefore, it is necessary to establish a "floor and ceiling of
advocates' fees". It is "professional misconduct" on the part of lawyers to
demand a portion-of-the claim-settlement as professional-fees.
To establish an effective regulatory framework for the legal-profession,
the-court requested that the government enact legislation, appoint an
external-Ombudsman to handle any complaints from litigants over the
professional-legal-fees charged or unethical behaviour by attorneys and
establish a settlement-mechanism.
The Supreme-Court had concurred with the Deepa Bhure case ruling. The
Supreme-Court asked for a law to be passed to stop the legal profession from
becoming increasingly commercialised and to set a
minimum-and-maximum-on-the-fees. The Supreme-Court cited the 131st
Law-Commission-Report, analogous to public-hospitals for medical care. Even
though this report was published in 1988, nothing has been done in the
intervening 29 years.
Self-regulation mechanism and the high-promising sections of the BCI (Bar
Council of India) and Advocates-Act are all good in the books but in practise
lawyers do break their ethical code of conduct for sheer greed of incoming more
money. Thereafter, many suggest our government to take up the 131st
report-of-the Law-Commission-of-India to regulate attorney-fees and not delay
In the RD Saxena v Balram Prasad Sharma case the Supreme-Court held-that an
advocate cannot claim a lien over a litigation file entrusted to him for his
Contingent Fees Cases:
While America considers contingent fees to be valid, India clearly considers
Would Regulating The Attorney Fees Actually Help?
Due to financial constraints, rather than because of fixed fees, most people
with legal needs do not receive the help they need to resolve them. The fact
that a lawyer's fee is beyond the means of the average person does not imply
that it is excessive because the ethics system does not advocate that lawyers as
a group satisfy the nation's legal needs.
The way in which pro-bono work is handled in the
America's-Model-Rules-of-Professional-Conduct demonstrates that the ethics
provision was not intended to ensure that the average person could afford to
hire a lawyer. Even though the code advises-that "persons who cannot afford to
pay-for legal service to-be-provided need-services,"
The merits and qualifications of a lawyer, his academic and lawyerly
achievements would also be undermined because a highly efficient lawyer would
not grow in his field after a certain point because the fees would be
capped/regulated. He and his peers would earn the same amount of money even
if he were better than them at an earlier stage, as a lawyer.There would
be no special distinction for his excellence. To regulate attorney fees all
these considerations are to be considered.
Courts have asked BCI to devise a method for calculating the fee that is
consistent with the circumstances of the case, as specified in Rule 11.
I think, attorney-fees should be regulated because in-prevalent-days we see
situations wherein a lawyer charges unreasonably, saying he has engaged himself
in 40 days of intensive-workhours for the same quality-of-work which could be
done by a-lawyer in 4 days. In the truest sense that would count as unethical
and abuse towards his client. Young lawyers should take up cases of the poor on
According to Union-Law-Minister Kiren Rijiju, it is challenging to-control or
set a-limit on-the exorbitant-fees some lawyers in the country charge,
even-though efforts-are being made to-encourage qualified-lawyers to take
on-cases for-the-disadvantaged for-free or at a low-cost.
Legal professionals frequently demanding exorbitant fees is one of the main
obstacles adding to the enormous backlog of cases still pending at-the-courts.
Regulation of attorney-fees is necessary for emphasizing the value of the legal
profession as a noble profession and to help lawyers understand that their work
is more than just a means of making money. The legal profession is essential to
improving how justice is administered. The public's trust in the legal system
and the legal profession are inseparably linked.
Questions That Are Concern Of The Hour
Why should only the impoverished agree to exorbitant attorney fees?  Why
can't efficient lawyers be more considerate and reasonable at setting their fee
rates? How can educated lawyers who being so learned after all do not care about
their profession being a "noble profession?" Is money so important that lawyers
(who are aware of their client committing illegal acts) defend their clients who
are potential criminals/ law breachers?
Will regulating attorney fees help or will it bring newer challenges like
inefficient lawyers getting equal pay as a much more efficient meritorious
lawyer just because they are in the same field for the same number of years?
Would considerations be based on the success rate of an attorney only or would
his seniority in the field also be considered? If merits and academic brilliance
would even be a consideration in determining the upper limit of an attorney's
Written By: Madhurima Mukherjee
- The most important details are the time and labour required, the novelty and difficulty of the legal questions involved, the likelihood that the acceptance of the particular employment will preclude other employment by the lawyer, the fee charged in the locality for similar legal services, the amount involved and the results obtained, the time limitations imposed by the client or by the circumstances, the nature and length of the professional relationship with the client, the experience, reputation, and ability of the lawyer or lawyers performing the services, and whether the fee is fixed or contingent. Several other factors could also be considered by the courts apart from this.
- They are divided into two categories: maintaining access to the legal system for the poor and preventing abuse of trust.
- Gabriel J. Chin & Scott C. Wells, 'Can a Reasonable Doubt have an Unreasonable Price? Limitations on Attorneys' Fee in Criminal Cases', Vol. 41, Issue. 1, pp. 1 � 70 (2000)
- B Sunitha vs The State Of Telangana on 5 December, 2017
- Pooja Thakur and Piya Thakur, Supreme Court Calls For Regulating Hefty Fees Of Lawyers, MONDAQ (Dec. 21, 2017), https://www.mondaq.com/india/performance/658088/supreme-court-calls-for-regulating-hefty-fees-of-lawyers
- AIR 1954 Bom 478
- The same thing has consistently been denounced as being unsuitable for the legal profession. An advocate may have a tendency to violate ethical standards if he has a stake in the litigation's success.
- (1955) 1 SCR 490
- It was noted in the case of VC Rangadurai versus D. Gopalan that the relationship between attorney-client is largely one of fiduciary duty. The "position of trust" is with the advocate.
- The standards of professional conduct and etiquette set forth by the Bar Council of India were found to have gaps that could easily be exploited to harass plaintiffs, as was done in this instance, and they lacked any guidelines regarding how attorneys should be charged for their services.
- Saswata Tewari, Regulation of fee of lawyers and doctors, BLOG IPLEADERS (Jan 10, 2021), https://blog.ipleaders.in/regulation-fee-lawyers-doctors/
- Anushka Singhal, Concept of contingency fees of advocates: cross-jurisdictional analysis of contingency fee, BLOG IPLEADERS (Oct 22, 2021), https://blog.ipleaders.in/concept-of-contingency-fees-of-advocates-cross-jurisdictional-analysis-of-contingency-fee/
- The concept of contingency fees was established by the case Ganga Ram v.
Devi Dasi. The court invalidated contingent fees on the grounds that they were
against both professional ethics and public policy.
- Even though his expertise in a matter would be much more efficient and
refined than his peers.
- Not every lawyer is going to excel the same way in the same amount of
- Because His ability to charge his client would be regulated by the
- Pti, Difficult for govt to put cap on 'exorbitant' fees of some lawyers,
says Kiren Rijiju E.T Times, (Feb 04, 2022)