Solicitors’ Guideline Hourly Rates – How do they work?

What are the Solicitors’ Guideline Hourly Rates?

Solicitors and other legal professionals can certainly decide their own fees, and their fees are something that any potential client is encouraged to negotiate prior to any legal instruction. However, there are guideline hourly rates for solicitors that have been created for all legal professionals in England and Wales to take note from.

Solicitors’ guideline hourly rates (GHR) are most likely to be used as guidance in the instance that a case’s costs go to court to be assessed. The judge will use the guideline rates in their calculations and awards to the legal professionals, regardless of their own previously agreed rates with the clients in question.

The rates were most recently updated and assessed in October 2021 and are used as a starting point for costs judges when assessing the fairest charged rate per hour of work completed by solicitors and other legal professionals.

The guideline rates should be taken into consideration by costs lawyers, costs draftsmen and solicitors when issues surrounding retainers or costs budgets arise, though it is still important to remember that parties can make individual decisions on the complexity of cases and client needs, charging whatever they feel appropriate.

 

Difference Between the Rates

Solicitors’ guideline hourly rates are split into various different sections. The rates vary depending on the location of the legal professional and the title/experience of the legal professional.

The grades set out for the experience of a solicitor are as follows:

  • Grade A – Solicitors and legal executives with over 8 years of experience
  • Grade B – Solicitors and legal executives with over 4 years of experience
  • Grade C – Other solicitors or legal executives and fee earners of equivalent experience
  • Grade D – Trainee solicitors, paralegals and other fee earners

The grade of legal professional is then split into their working location:

  • London band 1 – Heavy commercial and corporate work in Central London
  • London band 2 – City and Central London
  • London band 3 – Outer London
  • National 1 – Usually inner cities
  • National 2 – Usually outer cities

 As an example, a London band 1 grade A fee earner receives a guideline rate of £512 per hour, as opposed to legal professionals with the same experience based in Exeter, a national 2 area, who get £255 per hour.

 

When Were the Rates Last Changed?

The Civil Justice Council (CJC) revealed the new guideline hourly rates in July 2021 after taking surveys and evidence from a range of members in the legal profession who submitted their hourly rates and experience. This evidence gathering took place in September and October 2020. The rates submitted were combined into averages to create the guidelines.

The CJC published their final report and recommendations in July 2021. The Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, has approved the rates and they came into effect in October 2021. It is worth noting that this was the first time in 11 years that the rates were increased, and the CJC has said that there will be another review in the following 2 years.

The new solicitors’ guideline hourly rates that came into effect in October 2021 still keep a distinct barrier between London rates and National rates. However, other qualified legal professionals such as costs lawyers can now charge higher rates than grade D depending on the complexity of the case they are working on, laid out in the information provided in the Guide to the Summary Assessment of Costs 2021.

 

Economic Impacts of the Rates

As the guideline rates were last changed in 2010, it is clear to see that economic changes in the world over the last decade have had an impact on the increasing of the rates.

Inflation rates have of course had a strong part to play in the increase, however, recent events such as Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic are obvious reasons for the updated guidelines. The updated hourly rates survey was needed to keep solicitors’ rates in line with the UK economy and the rising costs of living.

 

Do Solicitors Have to Follow the Guidelines?

As previously mentioned, the guidelines are simply guidelines, and many solicitors and other legal professionals offer rates that are higher or lower than what is it set out by the Civil Justice Council. Solicitors take lots of things into account when deciding their rates, such as the complexity of the case and the work involved, it is not one shoe fits all.

Court assessments of costs do often allow enhanced rates, though higher rates can be disputed by the paying party and the costs judge.

During detailed assessment hearings, the court can question the hourly rates of the solicitors and decrease it. Similarly, the court hold the power to decide that even if guideline rates are applied to a senior file handler for example, that it would have been more appropriate for a junior to take the lead, thus decreasing the rate.

 

How Can Greener Costs Assist?

Our team of Costs Lawyers and Costs Draftsmen have many years of experience and are equipped to create Points of Dispute to challenge rates along with any other unnecessary items in a Bill of Costs and can also effectively advocate for your costs if you are a receiving party. We are able to assist clients from all backgrounds on a range of cases, whether you are the paying party of receiving party.

With our extensive knowledge and highly skilled team of costs professionals, we can provide law costing services to clients throughout England and Wales. We are also proud to be represented on Your Legal Advisor’s panel of costs experts.

Greener Costs is the UK’s first net positive legal costs company, and our aim is to assist your law farm in costs services whilst also helping you become more carbon neutral. Our operations are fully paperless, and we commit to planting 25 trees per instruction. At the end of the year, we will send you a report detailing how much of your emissions have been offset by instructing our team.

If you wish to speak to a member of the team here at Greener Costs then please contact us at our registered office in Greater Manchester on, 01204 263047. Alternatively, you can email us at info@greenercosts.co.uk or use the online form on our website below.

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