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.
We issued court proceeding against the solicitor and went to trial. The solicitor’s defence was that he was not acting as a solicitor but as a consultant and so he did not have to comply with the regulations and could charge as he wished. Unbelievable! We demonstrated that he was working as a solicitor because we had evidence that on the same day as Mr Symons gave him instruction he passed the case to a barrister who was not a public access barrister but one who could only take instruction from a solicitor. We did some research and discovered the solicitor did not even have expertise in the field he had advertised; he was in fact a solicitor who specialised in criminal law and that’s why be passed the case on to an expert. They charged nearly £20,000 each.
In court the judge ruled in our favour saying the man was obviously a solicitor and that Mr Symons did not have to pay anything; he also said it was a case for the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA refused to take any action.
What happened next is astounding! The solicitor went away and produced paperwork to comply with the regulations and issued proceedings against Mr Symons’s company saying he had been actually working as a solicitor! Our solicitor had been writing to the SRA to intervene on a weekly basis for nearly a year but did not receive a reply, which was unacceptable. The court case arrived and this time the solicitor won; Mr Symons had to pay his fees including the £38,000 and costs.
I would like to add Advocate Legal Services and their solicitors have not expected any payment in relation to this case as we are paid on results. Eventually months later we received an unbelievable reply from the SRA saying they acknowledge the solicitor had broken regulations but had only done it once! So they won’t be taking any action. Our solicitor replied explaining he had actually broken regulations three times which had cost our client a considerable amount of money and that at the least he should be repaid even if the solicitor is not struck off. The SRA should have intervened after the first case when the judge actually said it was a matter for the SRA but they didn’t! We are still pursuing this case.