'Sharp practices' by lawyers condemned: Minister says solicitors should be forced to specify fees
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.
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Thank heavens for Louise Mensch and her foul-mouthed tweets to world leaders
- 5 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Greece elections: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras takes aim at 'neo-liberal' Europe as country gears up for prolonged austerity battle
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
New York snow: Winter Storm Juno downgraded as 'one of the largest snowstorms in history' fails to show
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Product Owner/Business Analyst is required t...
£28800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is going through a period o...
£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...
£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity for an ...