I ASKED THE FOLLOWING 2nd AUGUST 2012. I WOULD LIKE FURTHER ADVICE.
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I am in dispute with my solicitor. Each time I asked her how much I had spent to-date fighting a case, she told me not to worry, the other side had been so incompetent that her fee would be paid by them when the case was completed. She simply refused to discuss it.
She appears to have become bored with the case and has done nothing for over a year. The case seems to be no further forward than when she took it on.
She has now sent a huge bill for four times the amount I had fixed as my financial ceiling. Even if I sold my house I could not afford to pay what she claims to have spent on my behalf.
She does not deny any of the aforementioned but says I signed her agreement therefore I must pay.
I maintain I signed with the full knowledge that I could tell her to stop as soon as my financial limit was reached. Her actions prevented me from doing so.
She threatens court action. It appears inevitable and I feel my only option is to represent myself. Do I have a chance?
Did you sign any terms?
Has she provided a detailed breakdown of work done?
I signed an agreement to an hourly rate.
Yes. She claims to have done pages and pages of work on the time sheets she has sent me.
But she exceeded agreed costs?
We did not agree a total cost. I agreed to an hourly rate because that was what she asked for. I did not feel I was silly to sign an "open ended contract" because I could tell her to stop if I could not afford to carry on.
Were you keep regularly informed of costs?
Never. Each time I asked I was fobbed off. She assured me I had a very good watertight case ( I still think I have, in spite of the delay she has caused ) the other side would be paying her costs.
First you should complain to the Managing Partner.
Part of the Solicitors code is to keep you informed with costs. This is a law society requirement.
If that does not do anything then you should complain to the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
They can investigate and can prosecute if the rules have been broken.
They can be found at: www.sra.org.uk
Further to the above I contacted the solicitor to request copies of her invoices from the signing of the Contract of Employment (possibly of 23rd November 2006) until the huge invoice of 13th July 2012, pointing out that I had not seen an invoice from her in the whole period of almost seven years.
I informed her by letter of the 23rd May 2014 that I could not proceed further without copies of her invoices as required by the law society.
She has issued Court proceedings 17th June 2014.
She readily admits that there were no invoices. In short, over almost a seven year period I was kept unaware of the charges incurred, even though I had asked on a regular basis.
You asked: Did you sign any terms?
I checked her agreement and I am most concerned. This is what I signed, it is undated
Re: Contract of Employment
I the undersigned :
acknowledge receipt of your Client Care Letter dated 23rd November 2006
confirm your instructions to act for me in this matter
accept your fee quotation as contained in the Client Care Letter.
My name here.
When I asked about the above contract by letter in May 2014, she replied in writing:
“As to the third paragraph of you letter there was no “Contract of Employment”.
The point here is that I have never had a copy of the Client Care Letter dated 23rd November 2006 (the letter the contract is based upon). When I asked for a copy in a letter of 23rd May 2014, she replied:
I have already indicated that the date of the Client Care Letter should have been 23rd November 2006 but unfortunately whilst the letter was based on a precedent including the Acknowledgement Form, the date on the Acknowledgement Form was changed to 23rd November 2006 but the date of the Client Care Letter was unfortunately not changed to 23rd November 2006. You therefore have already been supplied with a copy of the Client Care Letter sent on 23rd November 2006.
I am now confused because the contract I signed which does not in her words even exist appears to be based on a letter which I have never seen and which she is not prepared or is unable to send me a copy of. Can she still enforce this Contract of Employment in court?
She has proved totally incompetent throughout. My opponent’s legal opinion even stated that I had received “very poor legal advice”. I do not feel that the service I have received is worthy of any payment whatsoever.
Further info asked for.
The case was with a local council over a planning application.
The solicitor claimed to have expertise in that department and I now realise the council just played her along for years. When they finally agreed to consider the case the council just brushed her aside as if she did not exist. It was very embarrassing. It was only at that point in December 2010 that I realised she did not have a clue what she was doing. She retreated and told me she would take the case to the LGO. Over a year later, and too late to take the case to the LGO she sent me a huge bill. She had done no work at all on the LGO.
Her total contribution was just a waste of time and money. The case is now dormant.
It arrived in detail with the invoice. There is a lot of it, all as ambiguous as her above quote regarding my request for a copy of the Client Care Letter.
Clares response after a few questions is:
There are two ways forward and you need to do both at the same time.
The first is to make a formal complaint about the service you received to the Legal Ombudsman - here http://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/consumer/
Please do this as soon as possible.
With regard to the legal proceedings that have been issued you need to file a full defence and ask for the matter to be transferred to your local court for hearing.
Your defence should also be dual
First it will be that there was an implied contract that the work done would be necessary and carried out in a professional way and this was breached; secondly that the bulk of the work done was in excess of the work authorised under the Contract for services (not employment)
I hope that this is of assistance - please ask if you need further details