Unscrupulous solicitors will lure you in with a low or fixed fee and suddenly add on charges without prior consultation, or with no explanation. There are legal requirements placed upon solicitors when billing clients, which protect you. Our civil litigation solicitors in Brighton and Hove can help challenge your solicitor’s bill and protect your interests in the event that you have been charged too much.
Has Your Solicitor Charged Too Much?
If you suspect you’ve been overcharged, you have a limited amount of time to challenge your solicitor’s bill and get clarity on what work has been done. Our civil litigation solicitors’ first port of call would be to write to your solicitor asking for a full breakdown of the work involved. This breakdown is known as a ‘statement of account‘, a ‘full narrative‘ or, in some instances, a ‘statutory bill‘.
If your previous solicitor does not provide a satisfactory answer and you want to further challenge your legal bill, we can make a complaint on your behalf to the Legal Ombudsman. Should the ombudsman agree that you have been wrongly charged, they have the power to make your solicitor’s firm reduce or refund the overcharged elements.
If these two steps fail, Britton and Time Solicitors can challenge your solicitor’s bill by making an application to the court. The court will then examine the bill. This may mean incurring further legal fees, but we will advise you before taking this action.
Why Is Your Solicitor’s Bill Higher Than The Original Estimate?
A solicitor’s estimate must be accurate within reason to what you want to achieve in your matter. Some solicitors provide poor advice on the likely fees involved or are extremely persuasive about your prospects of success. There can be many reasons for this beyond dishonesty, including inexperience, lack of information, or just plain negligence. The three most likely scenarios your bill exceeds the initial quote are
Overcharging is an ambiguous term when it comes to solicitors’ bills. It may be that the solicitor you have instructed has given an accurate estimate of your case, achieved your desired outcome, and the bill reflects this. In this case, it’s difficult to prove an element of overcharging has happened as you have received the service you have paid for.
However, requesting a statement of account can still reveal whether all the work billed was relevant to your matter, and our civil litigation solicitors can challenge your solicitor’s bill on these grounds, taking further steps if necessary.
Further Work Required
Your final bill may exceed the initial estimate if there is more work to be done than initially quoted. In cases like these, your solicitor must always inform you at the outset of any reasonable alternative outcomes to your case, and additional fees that could be incurred should things not go to plan. Your solicitor must also communicate with you when incurring fees over the initial estimate, and advise what the work is for.
While the fees are higher than the initial estimate, as long as you have been informed why, and agreed to the work, you would not have grounds to challenge your solicitor’s bill.
If your solicitor estimates a fee and goes on to charge you a far greater sum with little to no reason why, you may have a professional negligence claim on your hands rather than a challenge to your legal bill.
For example, your solicitor initially explains your case is strong and you can win, quoting an estimate of £20,000 plus VAT for your full case. However, during the case your solicitor writes to you and changes their estimate to £80,000 plus VAT giving no information about why, or the additional work involved. You may not be able to afford the increased costs and have to discontinue your case, which causes you to incur substantial other legal cost.
This may mean that you can pursue a case of professional negligence against your solicitor if it can be evidenced that the estimate of costs was negligent or, that your solicitor failed to inform you of the increase in costs or any costs at all. If this is the case, our civil litigation solicitors will help you challenge your solicitor’s bill.
How Can You Get a Court to Challenge Your Solicitor’s Bill?
Our civil litigation solicitors can help apply to the court for a detailed assessment of your previous solicitor’s legal bill. The earlier you take this action, the better. If you challenge your solicitor’s bill within 1 month of receiving it, the court is obliged to assess the bill.
If applying to the court after 1 month, the court has the power to use its discretion as to whether to asses your bill or not. In other words, they could refuse your case.
And finally, if more than 1 year has passed, it’s likely the court will decline your case as it’s deemed you would have raised the matter closer to the time if it were serious. One exception to this rule is if your solicitor acted on a conditional fee agreement, or a ‘no win, no fee‘ agreement. In this situation, you can still bring your claim to the court after a year has passed.
How Can Britton and Time Solicitors Challenge Your Solicitor’s Bill?
If you decide to challenge your solicitor bill, our civil litigation solicitors can help by:
- Requesting your file from your previous solicitor, including any invoices and a full breakdown of costs
- Prepare your file for a costs draftsman to review
- Source a costs draftsman on your behalf and instruct them to look for excessive and unfair, or unreasonable fees
- Write to the legal ombudsman with our findings and requesting a reduction of fees
- If unsuccessful, making an application to court on your behalf and attending court
If you want to challenge your solicitor bill or would like advice on a professional negligence claim, then contact us or call us on 01273 726951.