Clients led into trouble with no idea of what happened

Mrs Stevenson (not her real name) had an accident in her ice cream van. Soon after, a solicitor contact her to say they could deal with the matter on a no win no fee basis and get her compensation for her injury. She sustained a back injury with ongoing problems. The other side admitted liability and took her van away to be repaired at their expense.

This client contacted us 5 years after the date of the accident to say the solicitor had lost her case and she had been issued with a £90,000 bill of costs from the other side’s solicitors and that she did not understand. We got her to read some paperwork to us and realised the case had been adjudicated by the Financial Ombudsman Service, which seemed strange as they only deal with large organisations.
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Solicitors leading clients on in pursuit of their fees

Mrs Johnson (not her real name) was approach by a solicitor in her home town as they were specialising in unenforceable agreements. When asked by a friend who was working for the solicitor if she had any contracts for loans, etc. she replied that she did. She subsequently produced the paperwork and the solicitor told her it was an unfair contract and that it was unenforceable.

It actually was not an unfair contract: the solicitor just told her that so she would agree with him it was morally correct to challenge the agreement. What the solicitor had seen was the facility letter that was now over 6 years’ old, so it was out of time for the bank to take her to court if she did not pay the loan.
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Bad advice causing legal fees to be excessive

We had a client who instructed a solicitor to give her advice as her business was being sued by one of her clients. This was an expensive London solicitor who you would expect to be at the top of their game.

After months of work and charging her fees of £170,000 the solicitor then decided to ask a barrister for his opinion; the barrister had an opposing view to what the solicitor was advising. The solicitor always advised she had a good case; the barrister said she didn’t.

The solicitor should have asked a barrister for his opinion at the beginning and then the client would not have been charged such large fees. In fact that firm of solicitors advertised they were experts in the particular field required so really we should have expected the solicitor to have given the correct advice from day one.

We are suing the solicitor for £160,000.

Under settled cases

Our client Mr Richards (not his real name) was seriously injured in an accident at work when he was working under a truck without any safety jacks and it collapsed on top of him. He sustained a broken back and cannot work anymore as he did manual work. He went to a solicitor to deal with his claim, who settled the claim for only £25,000 on his behalf without asking for his authorisation.

A high proportion of personal injury cases are relatively straightforward and can be dealt with by most fee earners or trained members of staff. With a complex case like this one, it should have been transferred to an experienced solicitor. We believe it was dealt with by the secretary; the case file was in a complete mess. What complicated this case was Mr Richards had one year previously been involved in a serious road traffic accident so the two incidents had to be separated.
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Solicitor had broken regulations

A director of a company, Mr Symons (not his real name), approached us in relation to his business being over-charged by a solicitor. He sourced a solicitor from the internet who advertised the skill set he required. He then instructed him to produce an advice in relation to a claim against his company. He received an advice that we believe to be correct; the solicitor charged him £38,000, which he wanted us to challenge. We would have normally expected an advice like that to cost approximately £2500.

We established the solicitor had not complied with regulations, i.e. issued a client care letter and estimates, etc. Regardless of that, Mr Symons was still happy to pay a reasonable amount, which was turned down.
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A solicitor shrugged off responsibility

We had a client, Joan (not her real name), who contacted us very distressed. Her solicitor had issued proceeding without protecting her from the other side’s costs by procuring after-the-event insurance for her. In other words if the case had been lost or she had pulled out she would have been responsible for thousands of pounds worth of solicitors’ fees, her own as well as the other side’s, and this would have financially ruined her and her husband. The effect of the stress caused Joan serious mental health problems and her marriage broke down. In fact her husband, who worked abroad, blamed her for the problems as their solicitor said it was her fault.

What had happened was that Joan and her husband were building a house and the original claim was against the architect. We established her solicitor had not understood the claim correctly and thought the whole building had to be knocked down when actually only part of it did; the other side realised this, which caused the case not to settle. Joan had paid out over £60,000 worth of solicitors’ fees, and they wanted more but she had run out of money; she complained to her solicitor who then refused to do any more work for her! The solicitor used her complaint as an excuse to get rid of her. (We see this regularly.) Her solicitor shrugged off all responsibility.
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