What price a good reputation?: Neasa MacErlean looks at the ingredients of the Chancellor's now-famous huge legal bill
Saturday 05 December 1992
The solicitors Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners stoutly defend as reasonable their bill for pounds 23,114.64. But to people outside the legal profession the size of the bill is perhaps one of the most shocking aspects of the tale. Even some lawyers are amazed. One solicitor described the bill as 'ginormous', another called it 'staggering'. Both said that they would have expected the total fees to amount to something in the region of pounds 4,000.
Many lawyers will feel that this kind of publicity over a bill will give the legal profession a bad name. Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners may have provided a Rolls-Royce service but they did it at a Rolls-Royce price, which could make the man in the street despair of being able to afford a lawyer should he need one.
The partner who handled the case, Andrew Stephenson, believes the bill to be on the low side. Mr Stephenson's bill was based on his own charge-out rate of pounds 200 an hour and the costs of using other, less expensive, lawyers in the firm. Some of the bill related to counsel's fees and other direct payments such as court fees. Mr Stephenson said: 'It's an awful lot less than the firms in the City would be charging in relation to commercial litigation.'
The survey of legal charge-out rates in the 1992/93 Chambers & Partners Directory backs him up: partner rates can reach pounds 340 in the City.
Mr Stephenson is a media specialist but he seems surprised by the interest in the size of his bill. 'It's as silly to say that eviction proceedings should cost X as it is silly to say that a divorce should cost X. It depends on the circumstances.'
The circumstances in this case were that, for obvious reasons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to remove his tenant as quickly as possible. Some tenants move as soon as an eviction order is served, but Ms Dale remained in situ for a month until a settlement was reached. Not only did Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners initiate proceedings in the County Court, where eviction orders are dealt with, but they backed up that petition with a claim for damages in the High Court.
The damages claim, alleging loss of value in the property's price once it got a bad reputation, could be seen as a tactical manoeuvre to back up one of the more complex aspects of Mr Lamont's eviction order. Ms Dale had been a good tenant in the sense that she kept up her rental payments. Mr Lamont's claim therefore had to be made on the grounds that she had broken the tenancy agreement by running a business from the premises. When these grounds are asserted, the tenant can often retain possession by promising not to breach the agreement in future. Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners had to prepare a case which would prove that, even if she promised to take up a respectable profession, Ms Dale's presence in the flat would continue to damage its worth.
In the event, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement. However, Mr Lamont's solicitors could not count on reaching an agreement and had to prepare fully for possible court hearings.
Other eviction specialists believe that the Carter-Ruck bill was not excessive. Trevor Sears of Booth & Blackwell recently dealt with an eviction order that he believes was much more simple. Nevertheless, it has still notched up fees of about pounds 2,500. This bill was based largely on the hourly charge-out rate of pounds 105 of one of the firm's assistant solicitors. And although the tenant left when the eviction order was served, the proceedings still culminated in an appearance in the County Court. The court hearing lasted only about 20 minutes, but any court appearance is extremely expensive for the person who is paying the bill. Solicitors' preparation costs, court fees and barristers' bills will all add up to fees running well into three figures.
'There can certainly be a wide range of costs,' Mr Sears said. 'If you've got a case that fights the whole way it is perfectly possible to run up a very high bill. Lawyers are very aware that, if the bill is very high, those costs might be looked at because the other side may have to pay.' Costs, he said, will often be increased by the fact that the client is a well-known figure. Such clients will attract media attention and may, therefore, require a greater degree of sensitivity.
One person who may not have been surprised at the pounds 23,114.64 bill is Ms Dale herself. Her own legal costs are said to have amounted to pounds 18,000.
Make money as a mystery shopper
Investment Insider: Poundland may not be cheap when it floats
Money Insider: Marks & Spencer serves up no-fees current account
How to start your own internet business
The whole truth about legal fees: Conveyancing can knock a big hole in home-buyers' finances. To get the best deal you must cross-examine solicitors about their charges, says Sue Fieldman
- 1 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 4 Russell Crowe's Noah banned in three Arab countries before worldwide premiere
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
iJobs Money & Business
£1000 per month: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ban...
£35000 - £60000 per annum + Bonus + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: You must ...
£60000 - £80000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: A top, City ba...
VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED : Reach Volunteering: Fantastic opportuni...
Day In a Page
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar
A newly refurbished one-bedroom flat in the heart of Mayfair, close to Grosvenor Square
A charming four-bedroom house overlooking Burleigh Square Park, close to Thorpe Bay
A three-bedroom farmhouse with a large inglenook fireplace and exposed beams
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace
A four-bedroom farm-conversion with three bathrooms and two reception rooms
A two-bedroom detached house with ensuite bathrooms and a sun-drenched decked terrace, £750,000
A modern and spacious two-bedroom, penthouse flat with two bathrooms in a prestigious development
A beautifully renovated five-bedroom terrace with three reception rooms and a courtyard garden, £700,000
A four-bedroom period house which has been extended to provide almost 2,500sq ft of living space, £675,000
A pretty three-bedroom Georgian home with a 22ft drawing room and a master suite with a balcony, £525,000
A substanstial family home with five bedrooms and landscaped gardens in the much sought-after Branksome Park area
A well-presented three-bedroom house with front and rear gardens, close to White City station, £475,000
A handsome five-bedroom house in a sought-after location close to the city centre
A five-bedroom country home with valley views, equestrian stables and 27 acres of land, £725,000
A six-bedroom farm house with separate, detached cottages and 371 acres of land
A two-bedroom cottage with parquet floors, chunky beams and an open fireplace
A three-bedrrom flat with 2,733sq feet of living space, a beautiful private garden and 15 acres of communal grounds
A four-bedroom chalet bungalow with three bathrooms and a spacious garden, £525,000
A two-bedroom flat with an open plan kitchen and two balconies, close to Arsenal station
A Grade II-listed home with six bedrooms, secluded landscaped gardens and views across Hadley Green
A Grade II-listed mansion with two apartments and a cottage, near Gretna Green
A three-bedroom Grade II-listed mews house with vaulted ceilings and roof garden
A spacious Grade II-listed family home with annexe and equestrian facilities among four acres of land in Itchingfield
A four-bedroom home with exposed brick walls and open fires in the picturesque village of Northill