The legal system allows you the client to be manipulated legally by a solicitor who is representing you, in relation to charges. This happens even though the regulations state “the client must come first”.
Conflict of Interest
There is a direct conflict of interest between the law firm and their clients.
The client requires their case to conclude as quickly and economically as possible, which is not in the solicitor’s best financial interests.
You are relying on the good character of the solicitor, which we all know is a massive risk with human nature being as it is, especially as they are in business to make money.
• When is the charging system going to be changed?
• How do law firms act when they are struggling financially, which you obviously would not know about, and they have to find the money to pay the wages at the end of each month?
Challenging Legal Fees
Some law firms have their fee earners with large caseloads and on bonus for hours booked out – which cannot be right but is still allowed.
There is even an industry within the legal profession for checking and assessing legal fees, which still does not make it fair for the clients.
To challenge legal fees can take a long time and cost money with an element of risk. This assists solicitors in getting away with overcharging.
We have been successful at cost assessments. One lady recovered £100,000 after being overcharged by her solicitor for her divorce.
The solicitor only had to give the money back:
In our opinion they should have been charged with fraud.
They were either so incompetent with their charging that they are not fit to practise or they did it deliberately – it’s either one or the other.
Is a no win no fee agreement safe for the client?
Once again a solicitor can legally manipulate money out of you.
Let us explain how.
You sign a CFA (conditional fee agreement), commonly known as a no win no fee agreement.
Within that agreement you will sign that you remain responsible for the solicitor’s fees and any shortfall in those fees; you do, though, technically have to be responsible for the fees so they can be claimed back from the other side.
You also sign to say that if you do not take the solicitor’s advice you will be liable for all the fees.
See the two examples below
See the two examples below
No win no fee agreements - what you need to know
You have a case, it is successful, you receive an offer from the other side, let’s say 20k plus reasonable costs.
You accept it. Then the solicitor tells you there is a shortfall of their fees of 12k. This is because they had been charging excessive fees to your case without you knowing it and always knew they would be to high to be recovered in full from the other side.
You tell them it’s not fair, “you have recovered your costs”!
They say you agreed to any shortfall when you signed the agreement. Which you did.
So instead of receiving 20k damages, the solicitor could take an extra 12k and leave you with 8k. A worse scenario is if they say you owe them money, which we have also seen happen.
Another example is when the other side make you a global offer.
By the way, we don’t like global offers as they create a further conflict of interest between solicitors and their clients.
A global offer is an offer including your solicitor’s fees.
For example: you are made a global offer of 20k and the solicitor then splits it, taking his fees from that amount.
I can hear you saying, “Well we won’t accept it!” In the CFA agreement you signed, it will state that if the solicitor gives you advice you must adhere to it or you will be liable for all of their charges.
So you are made a global offer of 20k, and the solicitor tells you your proportion is 8k and advises you to accept or you will be responsible for all his charges. You have no choice but to accept!
"It’s always best to only consider offers in the format of damages plus reasonable costs to be assessed".
Why would a solicitor advise me to accept less than my case is worth?
Whatever the settlement is, no matter how small, the solicitor still gets paid.
That’s why you are always relying on the good character of any solicitor and hoping that the financial circumstances of the legal firm do not pressure them into under-settling your case.
The problem is legal firms are like any other businesses and have financial pressures.
“If a Solicitor under-settles my case, can I sue them?”
You can, but the Legal system is not weighted towards you, the client.
What a surprise!
You once again have to find a solicitor of good character who is not going to overcharge or under-settle, or forget about your case for months or even years.
You also need a solicitor who is prepared to sue another solicitor, and you need to be aware the damages you get second time around are not normally as much as you would have received from the first claim.
What do I need to look out for when choosing a Solicitor
You need a solicitor who communicates clearly, who is intelligent and has the expertise required, who can advise you empathetically, understanding that the law is not your field, and protecting you from any of the financial disasters which can occur to you through a solicitor’s incompetence
– what is just another brown file to them is often a potentially life-changing situation for you.
How does anyone find a solicitor they can trust and rely on if they have not used them over a long time before? With the legal system what it is - It’s always a risk.