Challenging Solicitor Fees
If you think that a solicitor has overcharged you then you may be able to challenge the solicitor’s bill. There are very strict time limits for challenging a solicitor’s bill so it is vital you do not delay before seeking advice.
If a solicitor fails to advise you about the likely costs that will be incurred when you instructed him or her, then you may be able to successfully challenge the solicitor’s bill.
What advice should I receive?
Since September 1999 it has been a mandatory requirement for solicitors to advise clients in writing about the likely costs they will have to pay. Failure to do so is a professional conduct issue. The Legal Ombudsman has the ability to impose a penalty on any solicitor failing to comply with their obligations in relation to costs advice.
How detailed and accurate should the advice about costs be?
The solicitor’s advice on costs must be reasonably accurate. If a solicitor provides a cost estimate that is then exceeded by more than a permissible margin of error (usually about 20%) there is a good chance his bill will be reduced back to the level of the initial estimate without the need to prove that the solicitor has in fact been negligent.
Poor advice about costs, or negligent legal advice from a solicitor concerning the merits of a case, can have disastrous consequences for the client. For example, if you are told you have a strong case that will cost £20,000 to bring to trial but half way through the process you are informed that the £20,000 has already been spent and the costs estimate is revised to £100,000, you may be forced to drop the case and face substantial losses through wasted legal fees – both your own and your opponent’s. If it can be shown that the solicitor’s costs advice was negligent, we may be able to help you bring a professional negligence claim against the solicitor.
Even in “no win, no fee” cases when the solicitor is only paid if the case is won, good advice about the solicitor’s costs is still essential. If a case is lost, although there is no fee payable to the solicitor, you may still have a liability to pay the opponent’s legal costs. It is important that your solicitor arranges insurance against this risk. We have advised many clients in connection with claims against solicitors who have failed to advise them of the need to insure against the risk of a liability for their opponent’s costs.
What should I do?
The law relating to legal costs and challenging solicitor’s bills is very complex and is often poorly understood even by members of the legal profession. It is a very specialist area of law and there are also strict time limits that apply. If you wish to challenge a solicitor’s bill it is always advisable to seek specialist legal advice as soon as possible.
If you think you have a claim then we may be able to help you. Please contact the professional negligence team or call 0800 3890 385 and we will be happy to discuss your case in further detail.