Solicitor Client Costs Disputes

 

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What is a Solicitor Client Costs Dispute?

It is not uncommon, particularly in privately funded matters, for clients to be surprised by the level of charges raised by a Solicitor for conducting litigation.

Whilst Solicitors are required to provide estimates of their expected charges to their clients, given the unexpected nature of litigation, and also that many Solicitors still charge on an hourly rate basis, charges can often exceed expectations when any initial estimate has been given.

As a consequence, whilst a Solicitor may have fulfilled their role competently, their charges may appear far in excess of what the Client expected, whether due to poor provision of information, excessive time spent on certain elements of the case, or other potential reasons.

At Greener Costs, we specialise in providing impartial advice to both Solicitors and Clients concerning legal fees disputes, such that a mediated outcome can be achieved to the satisfaction of both parties. 

How Can I Challenge a Solicitor’s Charges?

Challenging an Invoice/Bill Under the Solicitors Act  – This is not a service that Greener Costs provides, and specialist advice should be obtained from a Solicitor/Costs Lawyer this specialist expertise in this area of litigation.  However, the process involves issuing a claim with the Court in which proceedings took place (or alternatively the Senior Courts Costs Office if no proceedings took place) against your Solicitor.  Issuing proceedings under the Solicitors Act is a litigious process which can be extremely expensive, and requires the input of specialist Solicitors or Costs Lawyers to make submissions on technical points to the Court on what reasonable charges should be recoverable.

Any Challenge under the Solicitors Act is subject to strict deadlines (this may be as little as 1 month from the date you have received an invoice from your Solicitor) and advice should be obtained from a specialist in these types of costs proceedings if you wish to proceed down this route.

It is not uncommon for litigation to last as long as 12 months or longer.  You may also end up with a legal bill on conclusion of the proceedings, which eclipses the savings achieved, and for which you cannot fully recover the amounts from the other side.  You also place yourself at the risk that, if proceedings fail, you are responsible for the original bill from the Solicitor, plus their costs of the costs proceedings. 

Raising a Complaint to the Legal Ombudsman – At Greener Costs we can assist with raising a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman on your behalf.  As specialists in costs, we can articulate your concerns in technical points as to the agreement you held with your Solicitor, and provide you with advice on further issues you may have missed with regards to your legal bill.  Before the Legal Ombudsman can be approached, you must first raise a complaint with your Solicitor directly, before a complaint can be raised with the Legal Ombudsman.  Because of this, timescales can vary as to when your complaint will be addressed, but taking into account the initial Solicitor investigation period of atleast 8 weeks, and the Legal Ombudsman may take atleast 3 – 6 months to investigate, any concern you have raised may take up to 8 months to be resolved.

If you would like to contact Greener Costs regarding the assistance they can provide in making a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman, contact us here.  We charge fixed fees for this service dependent upon the level of charges being challenged, so you always have certainty as to what further costs will be incurred.

 

Instruct Greener Costs to Provide Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) – The best outcome to any legal dispute is one which is agreed between the parties.  At Greener Costs, we provide a unique ADR service in which one of our experienced costs advisers will provide objective advice to both the Solicitor and Client on the merits of their submissions as to costs, and seek to narrow the issues between the parties to reach an agreed/mediated outcome.

Fixed fees apply to both Solicitor and Client and, given that both parties have to agree any outcome, this service has a high satisfaction rate.  On instruction, Greener Costs will approach your Solicitor on your behalf and seek to arrange an initial discussion to provide a future platform for constructive talks to take place between all parties. 

It should be noted that ADR does not always lead to a successful resolution, and Greener Costs cannot guarantee that they will agree that a Solicitor’s charges are unreasonable on inspection of all the documentation available.  However, on payment of your share of the service fee, you will be provided with an objective assessment with regards to the concerns you have raised so that you are fully equipped for any mediation meeting.

The discussions held in ADR are entirely confidential, and any compromise is not binding until such time as an agreement is entered into between the parties to resolve the dispute.  As such, the process of ADR does not hamper you proceeding with litigation, or a complaint with the Legal Ombudsman, if you subsequently wish to do so following an unsuccessful outcome.

What Information Do Greener Costs Need to Assist?

So that we can proceed, we require the following documents/information:

  • Copies of the relevant invoices/bills and supporting breakdown of work;
  • A copy of the initial terms and conditions detailing charges to be undertaken for any work, as well as any estimates for future costs given;
  • A copy of your initial complaint to the Solicitor and any response received;
  • Details of the Solicitor, including your conducting file handler and their contact details.

How can Greener Costs Assist?

Greener Costs are a team of expert Law Costs Draftsmen & Costs Lawyers with in excess of 25 years’ combined experience in the field of legal costs. We can assist both Solicitors and Clients, and indeed recommend the co-operation of both, to resolve legal fee disputes without the costly involvement of the Courts.

In addition to our drafting services, at Greener Costs, we are actively doing everything we can to ensure our business benefits the environment.

We are doing this though carbon offsetting of our staff, becoming completely paperless and carbon offsetting through each instruction.

For a free, no obligation discussion, get in touch using the form at the bottom of the page.

We're here to support your business

Contacting us is free. It's our goal to put you at ease and offer expert advice on Bill of Costs, Costs Budgets and Costs Drafting

4 Bark Street East, Bolton, BL1 2BQ

01204 263047

info@greenercosts.co.uk

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