As we all know, the first question that a client asks before deciding whether to contact a lawyer (in Italy and worldwide) is : how much is it going to cost me?
We are often used to think that, in order to employ a legal consultant, it requires quite a lot of spending capacity and large sums of money, unaffordable for many.
In Italy lawyers are self employed and, as such, they are not subjected to fixed fees, either minimum or maximum, and can provide a quotation as they see fit. They are simply obliged to provide a written estimate to their client, who must accept it also in writing, before conferring the mandate.
As of 2012, the professional exclusivity reform, and the consequent abolition of professional fees, introduced the principle of free determination of professional fees between the parties, allowing lawyers to ask for any fee they deems more congruous to the actual legal case.
Nonetheless, due to the specificity of the legal profession and the highly recognized social role of the Bar, the Ministry of Justice introduced a speck decree outlining the fees and responsibilities of professionals, i.e. the Ministerial Decree n. 55/2014 , recently updated by the provisions of the Ministerial Decree 147/2022 .
The M.D. n. 55/2014 establishes the so-called Forensic Parameters : these parameters, it should be noted, are not binding for the professional, but are commonly used as a reference point for establishing a benchmark for the potential legal costs. Whilst they have been originally developed to support professionals, forensic parameters may also be used as excellent consultative tools by clients, who have not been provided with specific information regarding the estimate submitted to them.
In particular, it’s worth mentioning that such parameters vary on the basis of various elements, such as: the value of the case, its complexity , the number of counter-parties, the potential duration of the claim, the judicial authority involved.
The estimate exchanged between lawyer and client, therefore, contains merely economic elements, as well as, and above all, intrinsically subjective elements, which take into account the complexity of the case but also the lawyer’s time and specific expertise.
Finally, although there’s essentially no written rule on how to precisely calculate legal costs in advance, before incurring in a lawsuit in Italy, to answer our initial question “how much is this going to cost me?” there are publicly available tools and tables (here), a the client’s disposal, as well as at the legal’s, specially created to easily navigate the broad spectrum that is the quantification of lawyers’ professional fees.