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Clare
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 33827
Experience:  I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
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The solicitors who I engaged for my divorce were paid after

Customer Question

The solicitors who I engaged for my divorce were paid after the legal ombudsman gave a determination on 23/9/13 as they supplied various bills spanning £7700-£9800 and it was not clear what fair bill was due, but they issued County Court proceedings the in October 2012, so could claim costs for filing an application with the Court. I terminated their service after 3 months for poor service and the Legal Ombudsman supported this finding and warded me compensation in this regard. As the Judge directed I pay the Legal Ombudsman findings for services rendered, which was granted at half the bill total the firm wished paid in January 2014 (over £6K), I was deemed to lose the case relating to costs which now stands at a further £7200 as matters were allocated to a fast track Court. Is there any legal basis to request an appeal to review matters? I was not informed the case had been lodged with the Court until the Court notified me in November 2012 as I was communicating with the firm by email and was criticised by the Judge for not engaging the Legal Ombudsman prior to the firm applying to the Court to resolve matters.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Thank you for your question.
My name is Clare
I will do my best to help you but I need some further information first.
What was the exact wording of the costs order?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare,


The action was a fast track case and action has been settled in the amount of the claim for divorce services but a difference of opinion regarding costs of this action. Claimant took action in October 2012 when 3 invoices totalling £7719.20 were not paid. Claimant took issue over differing bills (amounts up to and including £9800 supplied to the Ombudsman). The defendant clearly felt no sum was due whatsoever otherwise her defence would not have been to defend the whole sum and she would have either paid an agreed sum or made a part 36 offer. (I have no means for independent legal advice and limited explanation in court of proceedings) so turned to the Legal Ombudsman which the Judge was notified of at the directions hearing in March 2013 where he stayed action pending their findings which were received on 23/9/13. A final bill of £6039.32 was determined which noted poor service and compensation in light of this of £500 and this was paid in full on 31/1/14, but the firm requested additional costs for filing legal action in March 2014 as it was stated that I lost the case as I paid the Legal Ombudsman's determination as directed and was liable for costs as a result. I was criticised for seeking the Ombudsman's involvement after Court action was sought by the firm (which I was notified of by the court and not the firm at the time we were in email communication on the matter of the final bill due). Is there any legal basis I can appeal this?

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
How much are the actual costs being claimed
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

£7217.20

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Sorry - the costs of them taking court action - action which was subsequently stayed - were £7217.20?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

yes. The legal ombudsman determined I owe £6039.32 and as £1000 had been paid on account, I paid £5039.32 on 31/1/14. Costs were awarded as I paid and lost the case and they want a further £7217.20

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
What was the actual wording of that Order with regard to the costs
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I have 3 pages of the judges determination, but no order as of yet unless matters continue. the firm wish to settle today for £6200. Do you need me to type out all 3 pages for you?


 

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

the final paragraphs states that " regrettably she failed on 2 counts - firstly she admitted no sum at all (because of poor service I had no way of knowing what was a fair payment especially in light of varying bills from £7000-£9800) and defended the whole sum which she ultimately accepted the legal ombudsman's decision and paid the £6039.32 she was placed in a difficult position as the claimant had succeeded and secondly, she made no part 36 offer for the sum that had been ascertained, and the dispute was over timing and method of payment - and so the claimant was justified in proceeding to judgement.


For this reason I find the defendant is liable for the claimant's costs of this fast track action to be assessed if not agreed."


 


Please advise.

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Have the costs been assessed?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

not yet, no. The firm have extended the deadline for another 2 weeks so need advice on what I can do as it seems mad to have costs far in excess for 3 months poor legal service for which I've been compensated for by the legal Ombudsman, but I'm worried how going back to Court to have these assessed may affect matters as I don't want the fees to escalate even further. I cant believe the firm want £12,500 for 3 months poor service which I terminated. I don't feel the Judge is very sympathetic either which is causing me concern. Please advise

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
At the final hearing did the other side produce a schedule of costs?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

yes which included time for calls, email (not to me), reading documents, drawing up statement for a hearing which did not take place, VAT,,,etc

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
HI
And were the figures on that much the same as they are asking for now
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

yes. the total now quoted is in excess of £7200

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
I was just trying to check that the Judge was aware of the extent of the costs when he made the order - from what you have said he was - is that correct?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I wrote a letter requesting his permission to appeal. The Judge was aware of the sum, but made no comment on this, merely stating that his decision stands as to additional costs being due. His determination states if agreement cannot be reached he would decide the matter, but that means going back to court and potentially escalating fees further. Can you please advise?

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
Sorry - did you actually appeal or not?
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I'm sorry I thought I was being clear - I wrote a letter requesting permission to appeal which was denied. I was informed by the Judge I could apply to a higher Court to appeal this further by his judgement regarding costs stood.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare,


I'm still waiting for the help as so far I have only answered your questions but still not received any advice to date regarding my problem. I keep getting requests from you regarding feedback on this, but cannot give any until I obtain the answer(s) I seek.


 

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare,


I'm sorry to bother you again, but I've still not heard back from you regarding advice on this matter.


 

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
My apologies
If the Judge was aware of the extent of the costs and still made the Order then it cannot be said that he was not aware of what he was doing.
That leaves you with three choices - none of them great I fear
The first is to make an offer to the solicitors which is substantially less than they have asked for but would be paid immediately
The second is to accept the Order and ask for the Bill to be formally assessed by the Judge and hope that he will be more reasonable and set a more realistic figure
Appeal the matter on the basis that the costs order makes a nonsense of the actual outcome - they billed you for substantially more than they should have done and should not profit from your lack of legal experience by receiving more in court costs than the Ombudsman awarded in the first place
If you decide to go the appeal route do consider using a Direct Access Barrister to settle the actual pleadings for you
Please ask if you need further details
Clare
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare,


What would you do if you were in my position?

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi Natasha
That is a tough one
I suppose I would try the first option first - just in case it works
Without knowing a lot more then the second part is harder - but maybe the appeal process would work better
Clare
Clare, Family Solicitor
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 33827
Experience: I have been a solicitor in High Street Practise since 1985 and have specialised in Family Law for the last 10 years
Clare and other Family Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi Clare,


I was told about making an application to set aside judgement as the matter of costs has been resolved and paid already. Is this an option available to me as you haven't mentioned this? If so, how does this work exactly?

Expert:  Clare replied 2 years ago.
Hi
No that is not an option I am afraid
The issue of the costs of the application have not been resolved
Clare

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