By Eigbe Alright Osajie, Esq.
Dear Young Lawyer,
Advocacy in court is fun when you have a good case/argument and litigation is going on smoothly. But mhen, it can be terrible when a case you predicted to end in 6 months has refused to die after 1 year.
I mean, by the time most of our litigation cases are ending, we have forgotten what we used the profit money to do. Yes, this is where one magical money comes to save the day and sooth the emotions; one small fee that can keep you always motivated; it’s called “Appearance Fees.”
It’s definitely not a strange thing for you by now to have experienced the “no t.fare” wahala when you need to be in court, most especially for those cases outside the jurisdiction of your office. Imagine having an office at Akobo and going to court at Omi-Adio (Ibadan people can relate) and your salary for last month has not been paid. Appearance Fees becomes the saver.
It is advised that appearance fees should never be less than 2k (no matter your jurisdiction) to really be sufficient and motivating enough to be in court.
I remember when I practiced in Makurdi, earning 20k a month and not certain of when the wages would come; appearance fees was always the way through which God wrought many miracles.
I literally ate breakfast, lunch and dinner and paid my t.fare, bought my data and credit from appearance fees. Sometimes, I got appearance fees as much as 10k and as little as N500 (when i had to share with Junior colleagues).
I do understand that some jurisdictions and many big firms (and small ones sef) do not charge for this, but it is not unprofessional to do so. All you need to do is make it clear to the client from the beginning.
In fact, in some cases that are small, leave the litigation/solicitor’s fee, take the filing fees and spread your solicitors fees into Appearance fees. I do this a lot for watching briefs then. I wouldn’t charge for watching, but would charge 10k per appearance. Now, with our justice system, the case would have about 20 or at least, 10 adjournments before our Court’s and Defense Lawyers and Prosecutors will allow the case to die. Meanwhile, all I am going to court to do is “sidown look” and advise the Prosecutor – the same thing many of us do for free via WhatsApp. Of course, you would have gotten some money through your petition to the Police and all the said mobilizations.
And for seniors, I think it is proper to charge appearance fees (and this fees should go directly to the counsel that appeared in the matter). Many young lawyers are hurt and frustrated that seniors send them to court without t.fare, and they sometimes spend their own money for emergency filings, photocopying and the likes. Appearance Fees can cover for these pending when the client’s refund.
Dear Young Lawyer, the best time to collect your appearance fees is the evening before the adjourned date or the morning of the case. It is too risky to wait for after the Court’s sitting; your client may not show up, the court may not sit (and you have already travelled to court) and the likes. If you collect the money too early, one crazy emergency may just show up and make you spend the money, thereby defeating its purpose.
Yes, Appearance Fees may make counsels more inclined to unnecessary adjournments, but there is no other thing that has merit that doesn’t have demerit. The advantages of Appearance Fees to Young Lawyers far outweighs the disadvantages.
My name is Earl, and I am Alright