What can you do if you have received a bill or bills from your solicitors and you think that the fees are higher that they should have been, or you are not happy with the service you received?
I specialise in detailed assessments between solicitors and their clients where clients are disputing the fees of their former solicitors. I act equally frequently for clients and for lawyers.
Many cases against professionals begin with a client disputing fees and, particularly in claims involving lawyers, I benefit from my experience of costs work. I am often involved in applications for costs against lawyers, such as wasted costs applications or third party costs applications.
A common complaint I hear is that the solicitor told the client at the beginning how much a transaction or piece of litigation would cost, and then much later on, when the client was committed to that course of action, a much larger bill has arrived from the solicitor, who says that things were more complicated than had been expected, or additional work was required.
There may also be a cashflow issue for the client, particularly if the bill has come at the end of a piece of litigation which did not end in a successful conclusion, so that there may also be a liability to pay the other side’s costs.
It is possible for a client to challenge solicitors’ bills either by applying to court himself/herself to have the bills assessed, or, if the solicitor sues the client for outstanding fees, by defending the claim and at the same time seeking an assessment of the bills.
There are important time limits which apply to the right to have a solicitors’ bills assessed and many of the cases in which I am involved include technical arguments about whether the time limits have expired or whether the client is still entitled to an assessment.
If you wish to consider challenging your solicitors’ fees, I hope you will get some assistance from my free guide mentioned below.
It is worth stressing that in some cases it may not be cost effective to challenge a solicitor’s fees by going to a court assessment. Where I am instructed by a client who is concerned by his solicitor’s fees I consider that it is essential to determine at the outset what can realistically be achieved. That may mean going to court.
In some case it may be that after investigating the fees we can be satisfied that the lawyers have in fact charged what they are entitled to. Sometimes the best strategy is to open up a dialogue with the solicitors to see what can be agreed, and I have considerable experience of helping clients reach satisfactory settlements with their previous lawyers. You might be interested to read about mediation and how pressure can be put on an opposing party to consider it.
Disputing the fees of a firm of solicitors can be daunting and stressful, and I am aware that clients can require considerable assistance and support in this situation.
I appreciate everything you have done for us. You have been very helpful and supportive at a very difficult time for us and… I would not hesitate in recommending you to others.
Here are some of my articles about costs relevant to clients disputing lawyers’ fees:
I have recently published a free guide on how to challenge solicitors’ fees”.
The guide covers:
To request a free copy of the guide, please click here.