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Marcinlondon, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 405
Experience:  Qualified Lawyer - 8 years experience
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I need a second opinion please. I engaged a lawyer yesterday

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Hi. I need a second opinion please. I engaged a lawyer yesterday for a case asking if she would represent me. I explained that I'm on a budget and need to know my cost upfront. She responded with her fee structure (fixed fee, capped at £1000+VAT) and asked me to send her my documents (case documents + personal IDs eg passport) which I did. She also suggested we have a call today at 11am, which I assumed would be a call to explore my case and ask me questions. I also assumed she would take on my case after I sign her terms of engagement (contract) but she appears to have started reviewing the case anyway. In the meantime, I found another lawyer with better terms and pricing. She called me today and I immediately informed her that I found another firm and was considering them. She appeared to have understood but suggested we continue with the call anyway. During the call she told me she spent time on my case and I told her I understood and was willing to compensate her for her time (despite not signing a contract). She told me towards the end of the call that my fees were at £511 +VAT. I agreed even though the amount was steep, in recognition that she spent some time on my case. After the call she presented me with an invoice via email for £830+VAT. I inquired why the cost was so high and it turns out she charged me for the call as well (£328+VAT). At no point before or during the call did she warn me that she was going to charge me. I protested the charge and asked to pay her £511+VAT as she told me on the call but she refused and insisted on £830+VAT (and even threatened to charge me the full £1000. I deem this charge very unfair, especially as I never signed a contract with her at all. Am I obliged to pay this fee? Can she argue that our email correspondence is enough to prove my consent for her to start with the work and charge me regardless of me not signing her contract? I emailed her firm to complain and also informed her I would be complaining to the legal ombusdman (based on advice I received from this site) and she replied that she would be speaking with her compliance officer. Should I be worried?

Hello, this isCustomerand welcome to JustAnswer. I will be the lawyer working with you today and I will be happy to advise you to the extent possible on this platform. I will review your question and I will be back with my answer shortly. You will get notified when my answer is ready therefore there is no need to wait online.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Perfect. Thank you very much

Thank you for your patience. I am sorry to hear about it. If you did not sign the terms and conditions then you do not have a valid contract and in any event you should not be agreeing to pay any fees which you did not authorise.

What you could do is to set your compliant in writing and state that you formally did not instruct her and offer to pay what you originally agreed to pay for the work done. You may want to direct the lawyer to the SRA code of conduct and state that her action raises a few concerns under the code such as treating clients fairly. Ask them to reconsider their position and inform you are considering making a formal complaint to their regulator- the SRA. This usually helps.

Let me know if you have any questions. I am happy to clarify anything, if needs be.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you very much. I am worried she would argue that I did instruct her via email (by indicating we proceed and sharing my documents with her). Despite not signing the contract. I complained to her law firm about the invoice but she is the main partner and the law firm is named after her. Can she force me to pay?
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Does she have the right to charge me at all if I did not sign the contract?

If she completed a substantial amount of work and you can use her work then she may have a point in relation to requiring you to pay for her time.

If she started working without your proper authorisation – legally she doesn’t have a contract and therefore she cannot force you to pay. For the sake of argument, if she issues a claim in a small claims court against you, your defence is rather simple and, to me at least, a valid one, you did not sign the contract therefore the law seems to be on your side.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you. She did not share anything with me. Just gave some advice on the call based on what she claims she reviewed and prepped. I received advice here to complain to the legal ombusdman but I cannot do that until her firm get back to me with a resolution. So just to recap: legally I do not have to pay her anything, despite the email correspondence we had. If I did not sign the contract I can ignore her and walk away. And if I am summoned to small claims court I can argue that we never signed a contract without any worry that I would get in trouble, correct? Last question: am I legally obliged to pay her the £511 at all?

Correct, but for one caveat - I haven't seen your email correspondence and as long there is nothing in there which suggests that you wanted her to proceed straight way - then you are right. Additionally, she may want to claim that you entered into a verbal contract with her - again, this is very difficult to prove and as pointed out before, she was required by her regulator to have a signed client care letter before giving any legal advice.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
There is nothing in our correspondence to suggest this. I simply said I wish to proceed with the option she specified (which is £365/h capped at £1000+VAT) and then she asked me to send her all my documents. This is the bit I was worried about. Today she sent me her contract, but I did not sign or send it back. I never actually instructed her to proceed straight away and really assumed we would have a call first where she would ask questions and then I sign the contract. I had a call with another lawyer today and he did not charge me anything. I signed his contract after. Just confirming I am legally safe

Based on what you have set out above it seems to me that the original lawyer's claim to be compensated is a weak one.

Marcinlondon and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you Marc. You are amazing!

My pleasure.