'Sharp practices' by lawyers condemned: Minister says solicitors should be forced to specify fees

A GOVERNMENT minister yesterday launched a fierce attack on lawyers, accusing them of 'sharp practice' and of asking their clients for the equivalent of a 'blank cheque' at the start of a case.

John Taylor, parliamentary secretary at the Lord Chancellor's Department, suggested that solicitors should be forced to tell their clients how much they were likely to charge.

His comments follow repeated criticisms that people are kept in the dark about the probable size of their lawyers' fees, only to be stung by a huge bill at the end of their case.

Speaking at a Law Society conference in Oxford, Mr Taylor also confirmed that the Government was preparing regulations to introduce a limited form of American-style no- win no-fee arrangements. Under this scheme solicitors will, in certain types of case, receive no money if they lose and a higher than average fee if they win.

Mr Taylor said he often received letters from people complaining that their solicitors had failed to tell them what sort of costs they could incur.

'The profession too often asks, as it were, for a blank cheque. There are still too many solicitors who make little or no attempt to explain to their clients the basis on which they will be charging,' Mr Taylor, who practised as a solicitor in Birmingham, said.

Some lawyers agreed to undertake conveyancing for a fixed fee, only to replace it later by a 'much more substantial fee'. 'Tales such as this smack of sharp practice rather than of professionalism . . . And those complaints will continue until the profession makes it a mandatory requirement that clients are informed of the basis of charging.'

He said when the Law Society decided one of its members had charged too much, the Solicitors' Complaints Bureau should be informed. At present, the bill is reduced but no action is taken against the lawyer.

His remarks echo a report last year by Michael Barnes, the Legal Services Ombudsman, who said solicitors often ignored professional guidelines to be open with their clients about fees.

Mr Taylor also outlined the the no- win, no-fee scheme. This will only apply to cases involving personal injury, insolvency and the European Court of Human Rights, and will enable lawyers to charge 20 per cent more than normal if they win.

The Government hopes that at a time of legal-aid cutbacks, the new system will give people who could not otherwise afford a lawyer the chance to go to court.

However, stumbling blocks remain, with many lawyers saying they will be reluctant to participate in the scheme. They say that since they will get no money if they lose, they should be able to demand more than a 20 per cent uplift for winning.

And, unlike in the US, the losers will still be expected to pay the other side's costs, so anyone who goes to court faces the prospect of paying out large sums of money.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?