THE Law Association of Zambia says the Daily Nation misinterpreted the meaning of the fees or figures appearing under various heads of the Statutory Instrument number 6 of 2017 on the legal practitioners costs.
In a statement released on Thursday, LAZ president Linda Kasonde stated that following the Legal Practitioners (Costs) Order, Statutory Instrument No. 6 of 2017, members of the Remuneration Committee and the LAZ secretariat received a number of queries from legal practitioners on whether the fees indicated in the SI were expressed in kwacha denomination/currency or fee unit.
“The LAZ Council also read the article in the Daily Nation edition of April 3, 2017 under the headline ‘Lawyers Raises Legal Fees’ and the editorial comment that appeared on page 4 of the said edition with a grave concern as the authors misinterpreted the meaning of the fees or figures appearing under the various heads of the SI,” Kasonde stated.
She stated that members of the public who access services of legal practitioners and those who might wish to do so in future must note that the fees stated in the SI were expressions in fee units and not in kwacha denomination or currency.
Kasonde stated that it was common knowledge that for any figure to be called a sum of money in Zambian kwacha, the prefix or symbol ‘ZMW’ or the letter ‘K’ precedes the figure.
“A closer scrutiny of the SI reveals that neither the prefix ‘ZMW’ nor ‘K’ appear anywhere in the SI. Following the publication of the SI, the LAZ Council as well as the Remuneration Committee of the LAZ Council noted that there was an omission of the words, ‘Fee Unit’ below the words ‘applicable scale’ on pages 17 to 20 of the SI under the words ‘maximum fees’ and ‘maximum fee’ on page 22 thereof,” she stated.
Kasonde stated that LAZ had since engaged the Ministry of Justice to correct the omission which occurred at the printing stage of the SI.
She stated that legal practitioners and members of the public would also note that other Statutory Instruments that were published on the same day as the SI number 6 of 2017, that is SI number 5 of 2017, the Supreme Court (amendment) Rules, 2017 and SI number 7 of 2017, the legal practitioners (conveyancing and non-contentious matters) Order bear the words ‘Fee Unit’ below the words ‘applicable scale’ and under the words ‘maximum fees’ and ‘maximum fee’ wherever they appear.
“The same is also true for the legal practitioners (High Court) (fixed costs) order, SI number 97 of 2016. It was also the intention of LAZ Council and indeed the remuneration committee, which deliberated on all the said statutory instruments before they were issued that the fees expressed in the SI number 6 of 2017 should be calculated in fee units but the words ‘Fee Unit’ were inadvertently omitted on the pages referred to above,” Kasonde stated. “In the light of the foregoing, all legal practitioners and indeed the members of the public are advised that in order to calculate the monetary value of the fees expressed in the SI or indeed any SI where the figures of fees are expressed in fee units, the fee must be multiplied by the current fee unit which is K0.30 as stipulated in the fees and fines ( Fee and Penalty Unit Value) (Amendment) Regulations, 2015, SI 41 of 2015, when computing the fees applicable to their bands or years of standing at the bar. For instance, for any matter where the State Counsel is entitled to a charge of maximum fee of 6,661 per hour, the actual amount in Zambia Kwacha would be K1,998.30 per hour (that is 6,661 multiply by 0.30n)”
She stated that for any matter where a legal practitioner of less than five years was entitled to a maximum fee of 1,481 per hour, the actual amount in Zambian Kwacha was only K444.30 per hour and not K1,481.00.
Kasonde stated that part of the rationale for expressing amounts of fees in terms of fee units to calculate the monetary value of the fees was to ensure that any future adjustments to the fees charged by legal practitioners was aligned to any adjustment to a fee unit as prescribed in the Fees and Fines Act Chapter 45 of the Laws of Zambia and the regulations made thereunder.
“Members of the public may wish to know that the SI was formulated by the Remuneration Committee of LAZ in consultation with the Ministry of Justice’s Legislative Drafting department and the office of the Attorney General for over five years in order to ensure that interests of the public are taken into account when adjusting the fees. It is also worth noting that the last time fees for legal practitioners were adjusted upwards was in the year 2001,” stated Kasonde, adding that LAZ was committed to ensure that members of the public access affordable justice and the association would continued to do so on a pro bono basis through the National Legal Aid Clinic for women in collaboration with the Legal Aid Department.