Compare financing options for legal fees

Find the best finance to cover the costs of your legal case.

Updated

Emotions can run high when you’re dealing with a lawsuit, and the high cost of legal fees don’t help. Legal representation doesn’t come cheap, and a drawn-out lawsuit can run anyone’s finances into the ground if they pay out of their pocket.

To avoid going broke, you might want to consider getting help to pay your fees. Read on to learn about your options.

What do you want to know about legal fees?

What are my financing options for legal fees?

The most straightforward way to pay for legal fees is out of your pocket. However, that’s not always a possibility, especially if you weren’t expecting to need a lawyer. In these situations, you might want to consider one of the following financing options for legal fees.

Personal loan

Best for: A one-time legal expense.

You can use a personal loan for any legitimate expense, including legal fees. They’re best for when you know ahead of time how much you need to spend, e.g. paying for a consultation or a cut-and-dry case.

You can typically borrow between $2,000 and $65,000 at once and pay it back in monthly instalments over a fixed period, usually between one and seven years.
Find and compare personal loans

A line of credit

Best for: A drawn-out legal proceeding

When you’re not sure how long you need to pay legal fees, you might want to look into a line of credit. Instead of borrowing a set amount of money just the once, you have access to a specific amount of funds at any time, and you only pay interest or fees on the amount you draw. The line of credit can be for a set time, e.g. five years, or it can be revolving, i.e. it is valid for an extended period.
Compare lenders offering personal lines of credit

Awarding costs and disbursements

Best for: Someone suing for damages

The court orders the defendant to pay your legal fees but this is only an option if your lawyer thinks you have a strong legal case.

Legal payment plans

Best for: Immigration, defendants in criminal or civil cases

Ask your lawyer if they are willing to draw up a legal payment plan to help you cover the cost of your case. Many have standard legal procedures and not all charge interest or extra fees. Some are also willing to accept a partial upfront payment, plus smaller instalments over time.

This option could potentially be a more straightforward, less expensive option than third-party financing, e.g. a personal loan if you have poor or no credit. You may not need to prove your creditworthiness to qualify, and you have more room to negotiate your terms. The downside is you could end up losing your legal representation if you fall behind on payments.

Crowdfunding

Best for: Cases that the public might stand behind

Trying to keep costs down? Reach out to your social network to raise money for your legal fees. You’ll likely pay the platform a percentage of the funds you earn, so factor in these costs when you’re setting your goal. An example of a crowdfunding site is Givealittle.co.nz.

Credit card

Best for: Any legal fee you can pay off quickly

Sometimes the easiest way to pay a one-time legal fee, eg a consultation is to put it on your credit card. Most law firms accept them, and it’s an easy way to meet spending minimums and earn miles or points. You need to pay it off quickly to avoid accumulating interest, as credit card rates are higher than those of personal loans. On top of that, having a high balance can lower your credit score.

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Pro bono lawyer

Best for: High-profile cases, low-income clients

Lawyers sometimes reduce their fees or waive them entirely on cases that they think could generate a lot of press or for low-income clients. Some law firms even require lawyers to take on a certain number of pro bono cases each year.

Free legal help

Best for: Students, beneficiaries, unemployed or low-income clients

Community Law. provides free legal help for vulnerable members of society. If you need a lawyer and can’t afford one they can also refer you to a Legal Aid lawyer.

Dealing with financial hardship

Friends and family

Best for: Smaller legal fees

You can also reach out to relatives and close friends to help cover your legal fees. You might not have to pay interest, and if you do, it may be a low rate. Just be aware that you could damage your relationships if you’re unable to pay it back.

Am I eligible for a personal loan?

If you’ve run into some trouble with paying off a debt in the past, you could have trouble qualifying for credit from a lender. You need to meet the following requirements to be eligible for a competitive personal loan:

  • Have good or excellent credit
  • Be in employment with a regular income
  • Be a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident
  • Have a valid bank account
  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Provide photographic proof of ID, eg a driver’s licence or passport

How to qualify for a personal loan

How much do legal fees cost?

The total cost of legal fees varies wildly, depending on your specific situation and needs. These are some common fees you might run into in addition to the lawyer’s hourly rate.

Consultation fee

Either a fixed or hourly fee for your first meeting with your lawyer. Lawyers require a consultation before you decide to use their services. You don’t need to pay this if you have a flat-fee case.

Typical cost: Usually based on your lawyer’s hourly rate.

Hourly rate

Pay your lawyer per hour to work on your case. Prices can vary depending on your lawyer’s seniority and type of legal work.

Typical cost: The average rate is $290 per hour (exclusive of GST and disbursements).

Flat fee

A fee that covers the total cost of your case, standard with cut-and-dry cases like an uncontested divorce or drawing up a will.

Typical cost: Varies by case.

Four tips for keeping your legal fees to a minimum

  1. Compare lawyers. Shopping around not only lets you find a lawyer that’s right for your case, but it also helps you get a feel for how much most lawyers charge for your specific type of situation. Doing so gives you the confidence and leverage you need when negotiating their fees.
  2. Have a budget. Knowing exactly how much you can afford to pay in legal fees, which may include additional finance, can help you weed out lawyers that charge more than you can spend.
  3. Keep calls quick and to the point. Paying by the hour? Time is money. Don’t waste it with small talk and prepare questions ahead of time.
  4. Be organised. Clearly label and organise your documents and paperwork. Write summaries of key facts that your lawyer can refer to, so they don’t have to spend extra time on unnecessary work.

To get the best deal on your legal finance, no matter which way you go, know your rights and your options before agreeing to anything. Legal fees can deplete your savings and hurt your finances if you’re not prepared.

Luckily, there is a way to find finance if this situation catches you by surprise or you can’t shoulder the cost right away. If you can’t find a lawyer to work pro bono and you don’t expect a settlement, a personal loan can be a reasonable solution.

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