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Fonotoe speaks up for lawyers and their fees

Member of Parliament for Anoama’a West, Fonotoe Pierre Lauofo, has dismissed calls for the Government to regulate lawyers' fees.

The former Deputy Prime Minister, who is a lawyer by profession, said the fees charged by lawyers are a lot less compared to fees charged by consultants, accountants, auditors and engineers.  

Speaking during the budget discussion in Parliament this week, the M.P. said that as a businessman, the services of an auditor and accountant is required on a regular basis.  He said this is understandable because it is required by law to have accounts audited when paying tax and banks need to see financial statements. 

“Honourable Speaker, you are a well-known businessman in the country, these services are required on a yearly basis,” he said. 

“It is needed because it is required to comply with the law, but similarly the cost of engineers its not cheap…”

Fonotoe made the comparison that lawyers services is only required when you break the law. It is not a service required on a daily basis. 

“You don’t just sit there and think to yourself that you might need to go see the lawyer,” he said. 

“Only if you are in trouble with the law and did something wrong in the upcoming general election where a candidate takes you to Court then you go out to find a lawyer. 

“That is only once in five years [of the general election]. That is why I’m saying why discuss lawyers fees when its not that expensive?” 

Fonotoe had also made reference to the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti, saying that he too is a consultant and the cost of such services are not cheap. 

“When a business person wants to start up business, PUMA would tell you they need to have an Environment Impact Assessment report,” he pointed out. “It’s a very small business but it requires this E.I.A. report and when you find the consultant who has just graduated his bill is $30, 000. But that is the cheapest out of all of them.”  

The M.P. for Anoama’a West said he feels for the members that raised the need to regulate the costs of lawyers' fees in relation to adoptions.  He said the matter could’ve been settled outside Parliament where he would’ve offered his service for free to do the adoption. 

But Member of Parliament for Anoama’a East, Alai’asa Sepulona Moananu, interjected. 

He said he is an auditor by profession and would offer his services for free to Fonotoe. 

Alai’asa reminded of a story about an engineer who had used a spanner to hit the car battery and got the car running again. 

“The engineer said the spanner costs $1 tala but the $99 tala is for my brain that thought about how to fix the car,” he said. 

“That is the reality of these professions where some can’t sleep well, thinking about it, just like auditors.” 

Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele also spoke about the matter. He said fees for auditors should be higher because they deal with business people who have the money. 

Tuilaepa said the concern about lawyers fees is valid because they are dealing with people who don’t have money and are in trouble with the law, similarly with doctors dealing with the sick. 

M.P. for Falealili West, Fuimaono Teo Samuelu, initially raised the issue on the cost of lawyers fees in the processing of adoption papers. 

He said the process of adopting children should be transferred back to the Court to alleviate costs and ensure consistent fees are charged on processing the papers to avoid hefty fees. 

Fuimaono noted that some law firms charge legal fees up to $3000. 

If the service cannot be carried out solely by the Registrar of Courts, Fuimaono suggested a regulation be formulated to establish a price ceiling for such services. 

Minister of Justice, Courts and Administration, Fa’aolesa Katopau Ainu’u said Government cannot regulate legal fees as it is determined by the law firm and it varies for the processing of adoption paperwork. 

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