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Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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I would like some advice regarding how to approach a disputed

Resolved Question:

I would like some advice regarding how to approach a disputed legal bill with a solicitor, given the imbalance between our relative ability to obtain legal advice. I have paid around £3,500 so far and following conclusion of the relevant matter I have now been asked for a further £4,000. The key issues are:
1. The initial advice I was given missed out a key point regarding the assessment of the other parties legal position and, hence, their willingness to negotiate a favorable or unfavorable settlement.

2. The original fee estimate was £2,500, but this was then spent and a cavalier approach taken to increasing the estimate to £6,500, by which time I was in too deep in the dispute to pull back. Why the increase? Because the other party’s solicitors didn't agree with my solicitors erroneous assessment of our legal position and were now likely to issue proceedings. Not very surprising.

3. As a result of (1) I was eventually forced to make a settlement that could probably have been bettered before any legal advice was taken. (At the outset the legal ‘advice’ was that we could realistically target a zero settlement. At the end I paid 100% of what was demanded, including interest, and felt very lucky through my own efforts to have avoided paying the other side’s legal costs.)

4. Frankly even the costs as billed make little sense; they are not for legal advice, but often unnecessary discussions of tactics after which their advice basically came down to making increasingly higher and higher offers to the other side. Not exactly good value for money.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 3 years ago.

Alex Watts :

Hello my name is XXXXX XXXXX I will help you with this. Please note that I am a working Solicitor and may be on and offline as I have to attend Court and meet with clients, even at weekends. As such you may not get an instant response when you reply as this is not an ‘on demand’ live service, but rest assured I will be giving your question my immediate attention upon return. There is no need to wait here, you will get an email when I reply.

Alex Watts :

Have you yet challenged the bill in any way please?

Customer:

I have sent an email expressing my concern that it was raised.

Alex Watts :

You have a number of options:

Alex Watts :

1) Ask for a detailed work printout. This will show what work has taken place and time spent

Alex Watts :

You can then see what has been done and dispute the certain areas

Alex Watts :

2) Complain to the Managing Partner in the firm tasked to deal with complaints

Alex Watts :

There will always be one and they may be able to look at this and deal with any other matters

Alex Watts :

3) Finally you have a right under the Solicitors Act to ask a Judge to assess the costs incurred.

Customer:

The position is complicated in that the first solicitor dealing with the matter left the company and was replaced on the case by the partner. I agreed to pay the bills outstanding then in return for a deduction, but my understanding was that no further bills would be raised, although I am not sure if the written correspondence completely supports that.

Alex Watts :

This will be line by line and whether or not the time spent was justified and necessary - this is called detailed assessment.

Alex Watts :

The Judge can then decide what is payable and how much.

Alex Watts :

But if the Judge considers the bill to be fair then you would be liable for the costs of that detailed assessment.

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

Customer:

I suppose I have two issues and not completely clear how either would be dealt with under, say, the judge's review:

Customer:

1. The quality of the advice

Customer:

2. Whether some of the time spent was wasteful and unnecessary

Alex Watts :

That is why you need the detailed printout - all firms have these

Customer:

In fact I have the detailed print-outs, but the line detail is pretty limited. And this won't uncover, say, time wasted on multiple offer attempts that were never going to be accepted. I think they blurred the line between giving me advice (which as I said was poor) and actually running the negotiation process (badly)

Alex Watts :

Or you can complain to the Ombudsman

Alex Watts :

You have choices:

Alex Watts :

1) managing parnet

Alex Watts :

2) ombudsman

Alex Watts :

3) Court

Customer:

Also, will the judge take into account poor advice? Specifically this was a bank charge case, jointly with my wife, and we were told that she (for various reasons) had a good chance of having the charge set aside. However it was never made clear that the charge would then revert back to me in total under the 'equitable charge' concept. This was only mentioned about £3,000 into the process. And by then the partner was now saying that even my wife would only have a 50:50 chance in court.

Alex Watts :

Yes. The Judge would.

Customer:

Regarding the court assessment:

Customer:

1. Can you estimate the costs?

Alex Watts :

I cant - it really depends on how much work goes into it and that is assuming it goes against you

Customer:

2. What would be the cost position if the judge ruled the bill '75% fair'?

Alex Watts :

They would get 75% of their costs

Customer:

So even if the judge rules their bill is incorrect, I still pay court costs?

Customer:

I am just concerned because every time I have tried something so far in this saga it has cost me lots of heartache and extra money.

Alex Watts :

More more incorrect the more you do not have to pay their costs.

Alex Watts :

So if their bill was 75% correct, you would pay 75% of their costs.

Alex Watts :

If their bill was 20% right you would only pay 20% of those costs

Customer:

Sorry, but to be clear, if the judge rules their bill was 80% wrong and so I am obviously correct to dispute it, the judge would still then require me to pay the court costs of disputing that bill?

Alex Watts :

Some costs, but not all

Customer:

It seems fundamentally wrong. If they had billed 20% in the first place then I wouldn't have had to take the court action and incur any extra costs at all!

Alex Watts :

Yes but costs are discretionary - they may get none at all

Customer:

OK, I see. Do you think I am best to dispute the whole bill, of which I have paid nearly 50% or to dispute just the latest invoices?

Alex Watts :

I would dispute everything and see where you get.

Alex Watts :

Court is the last result so try the Ombudsman first

Customer:

Or should I at least go through the motions with the reviewing or managing partner of the firm - indicating my intention to take it further?

Alex Watts :

Yes I would do that first as it is more cost effective

Customer:

OK, many thanks Alex.

Alex Watts :

If this answers your question could I invite you leave feedback on my service which I hope has been excellent today, if you need more information or help then please click reply.


Please remember that I am always happy to help if you have future questions, even if I am in Court I can normally respond within a few hours. For future information, please start them with ‘For Alex W’.


 


Please bookmark my profile if you wish for future help: http://www.justanswer.co.uk/law/expert-alexwatts/

Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience: Solicitor with 5+ years experience
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