Disputing Solicitors’ fees

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.

dispute solicitors' fees

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.

Genuine Part 36 Offers legal costs

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.

My recent cases: challenging solicitors’ bills 

  • acting for a leading family law solicitor against a former client in a detailed assessment of costs, arising out of high value matrimonial litigation; arguments centred around the client’s ability to restrict the solicitor’s fees to the level of a costs estimate given previously;
  • acting for a client challenging the level of fees charged by his wife’s matrimonial solicitors, which he had agreed to pay as part of the financial settlement;
  • acting for a company director who challenged the fees of his solicitors in acting for him in High Court litigation; we were successful in arguing that his solicitors fees should be substantially reduced because they had not given him accurate costs information;
  • where a client is too late to challenge his solicitor’s bill under the Solicitor’s Act 1974, it may be possible to dispute the solicitor’s fees under a different, common law procedure. I have carried out a number of hearings using this procedure.

Costs articles

Here are some of my articles about costs relevant to clients disputing lawyers’ fees:

How to dispute solicitors’ fees

Free Guide available

I have recently published a free guide on how to challenge solicitors’ fees”.

The guide covers:

  • The 3 most essential tips for challenging solicitors’ fees.
  • Avoiding the most common mistakes in disputing lawyers’ bills.
  • What to do if you receive a solicitor’s bill with which you are unhappy.

To request a free copy of the guide, please click here.

guide to challenging solicitors' bill
Legal Notice

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem. 

All original material on this site is © Stephen Innes and may not be produced without permission.

Neither the submission of any enquiry to Stephen Innes by a user of this site, nor any contact between Stephen Innes and a user of the site, whether written, electronic, oral, telephonic or otherwise will give rise to a retainer, duty of care or liability of any kind (including for loss or damages) to the user of the site, even if Stephen Innes has been advised of the possibility of such damages or such damages are foreseeable. Accordingly, and notwithstanding the submission of any enquiry to or any contact with Stephen Innes, all users of the site remain wholly responsible for complying with any limitation deadline (including but not limited to any statutory or contractual limitation deadline) for issuing any court proceedings, as well as complying with all directions, orders and notices issued by the court.

Bar Council Number 41453

VAT registration number 782715995

Regulated by the Bar Standards Board

Complaints procedure available from 4 New Square