Check your solicitor's bill. You could be overcharged

A recent Law Society survey indicated that one of the complaints against solicitors was of excessive bills and not being warned in advance about likely costs. Legal advice is not cheap. According to the Chambers & Partners 1995-6 directory of The Legal Profession, a partner's time can cost as much as pounds 335 an hour in London and up to pounds 220 an hour in the provinces. It is not surprising that at rates like these clients want value for money.

If a client suspects his bill is unreasonably high, he can usually have it vetted in one of two ways. The first route, available only where the legal work does not involve court proceedings, is to obtain a remuneration certificate from the Law Society. By this method, the Law Society will examine the solicitor's file free of charge to ensure the fee is fair. This right is restricted to bills of up to pounds 50,000.

Two conditions must be satisfied before a certificate is granted. First, when the request is made, the bill must remain unpaid. If the solicitor has already deducted his costs from the funds held on account for the client, the bill will be treated as having been paid if the client has given permission for such a deduction.

Secondly, the request for a remuneration certificate must be made no more than one month after the solicitor first makes the client aware of his right, or from the delivery of the bill, whichever is the later.

Once the client has asked for a certificate, the solicitor must complete an application form and send it together with the relevant file to the Law Society. Most solicitors will be anxious to avoid such an exercise because it is a time-consuming task for which they cannot charge.

The client, within a month of requesting a certificate, must pay the solicitor half the bill, the VAT on all of the bill together with any disbursements such as stamp duty. In certain circumstances, the Law Society may waive the client's requirement to make payment.

The solicitor is, a month after delivering the bill, entitled to charge interest. The precise amount of interest awarded will be calculated by reference to the actual amount the Law Society decides the client should pay.

A client who values his solicitor's advice should be aware of the damage a request for a remuneration certificate is likely to have on future relations. The main advantage for clients who opt for the remuneration certificate is that they have nothing to lose apart from their solicitor's goodwill.

The alternative method of checking whether a solicitor's bill is reasonable is to ask for it to be "taxed'' at a hearing presided over by a court official. At this hearing, the solicitor's aim is to defend his bill. He must convince the official that the time spent on the matter was reasonable and that specific items of expenditure incurred were justified.

The advantage of taxation is that, unlike the remuneration certificate, bills incurred in court proceedings can also be queried. The disadvantage is that, if the bill is reduced by less than a fifth, the client will be responsible for the solicitor's costs.

The Law Society has introduced professional conduct rules for solicitors which cover the information that should be given to clients on the issue of costs. The code on standards comments: " ... one of their particular objects is to ensure that clients who are unfamiliar with the law and lawyers receive information, they need to make what is happening more comprehensive and thus to reduce areas of potential conflict and complaint. Failure to give adequate information on costs frequently give rise to complaints about solicitors".

Solicitors are reminded of their duty to keep clients informed about costs and of the requirement, on taking instructions, to inform the client of the likely cost of handling the matter. The discussion should also cover how costs will be met, including whether they may be covered by legal aid or insurance. If no fee is agreed or estimate given, the solicitor should tell the client how the fee will be calculated. The position on costs should be subsequently confirmed in writing.

Solicitors are warned that: "Unreasonable failure to advise a client properly of some matters, particularly on the risks as to costs in litigation or the availability of legal aid, may give rise to a claim in negligence." Such claims will presumably mean even more legal costs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search

EU to scrap roaming charges in 2017: European Commission under fire for taking so long to act

UK consumer groups complained that British holidaymakers face another two years of mobile phone misery before the law comes into effect

On the money: Yorkshire building society has demonstrated that it is taking the P2P industry seriously

Is peer-to-peer lending a risk worth taking?

The P2P industry must do more to shake off an unjustified image of being too complex and risky for the everyday saver, says Andrew Hagger

Generating grievances: Scottish Power's Longannet station in Fife

Questions of Cash: Scottish Power says it's sorry - again and again

Six of the energy company's customer have cause to blow a fuse this week

Will Patisserie Valerie be the portfolio's sweet spot?

Derek Pain: 'Patience is a virtue but maybe I should cut and run'

Derek's portfolio is currently suffering because of his failure to be more ruthless

There are now more than three million people in “severe problem debt”

Debt managers are misleading vulnerable people, warns watchdog

One debtor was given a repayment plan that would have taken 125 years to repay

Challengers are smashing the traditional high street banks when it comes to offering decent savings rates

Ignore the new breed of savings institutions and you'll lose interest

NatWest has ripped up its pledge to never be the last bank in town

NatWest pledged five years ago it wouldn't close the last bank in town. Now villagers have been told the branch shuts in September

When the last bank closes, local shops quickly go out of business

Under new state pension rules we will all be much worse off

Why did no one notice? The Government hides behind complexity, says Neasa MacErlean

Bogus Islington landlord scams public for £20,000 in fake deposits

It’s not just Islington... Simon Read warns renters and landlords about a nationwide fraud operation

Questions of Cash: The paperwork wasn't right so I was left high and dry with a broken washing machine

A reader encountered a problem with a Currys washer/dryer care plan

Borrowers should steer clear of established providers to get the best rates

Interest rates have never been cheaper if you want a five-figure personal loan but for lower-value loans it's a very different picture

Personal banking: Banking chiefs at NatWest and RBS insist that they are over the worst of the technical issues but customers are still complaining of payment issues. NatWest has waived overdraft fees and told customers they can withdraw £100 more than their limit over the next few days

People’s bank in crisis again: What should you do about the NatWest/RBS meltdown?

Thousands still waiting for payments to go through

The average UK household is set to hold close to £10,000 in unsecured debt by the end of 2016

If they don't get help, debtors face 30 years of financial hell

There are many people in dangerous debt who don’t seek advice

RBS/NatWest meltdown: some customers may have to wait until Saturday for their cash

Some 600,0000 payments have been delayed many of which could be crucial

Renters' warning: bogus landlords are tricking potential tenants out of thousands

An army of tricksters are using online websites to trap their victims

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

    £40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

    SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

    £22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map