My Lawyer Has Overcharged Me...What Should I Do?

| General


In later November 2022, a story hit the legal headlines which will put all legal professionals on red alert and make them think twice before charging excessive amounts in terms of bills for services rendered. 

What Happened in the Case?

All appeared fine until the SRA investigated following the emergence of a report appearing to indicate that four of the firm’s estate clients collectively had been charged excessively to the tune of nearly half a million pounds by the provider. No documentary evidence justified these charges nor was any time recording done. When the Regulator held the legal professional’s feet to the fire, he admitted fault.   

Pages Turned…Lessons Learned?

After this case, aspiring legal professionals and those with established careers should:

  • consider the reason they have been approached, retained, and, utilized by the client. This is primarily because they are providing a service

  • put in place an effective finance department to deal with bills, invoices and Solicitors Accounts Rules compliance

  • remember that clients stand in the position of a customer and legal service providers need to be mindful that clients providing instructions possess the opportunity by law to appeal against a bill such an organization sends to them with a request for monies concerning services rendered

  • quickly arrive at the realization that if a client does decide to enter a complaint regarding accusations of overcharging then external legal professionals may become involved in proceedings, they may decide to intervene and ask perceptively difficult questions about the events which have presumably taken place

  • stop sending over numerous superfluous correspondence such as letters, emails, and others to clients or courts

  • consider if any issues require pursuing

  • reduce the need for protracted, ongoing, and, lengthy disputes by building good working relationships with counterparties

  • furthering the overriding objective under Rule one of the Civil Procedure Rules by taking the chance to bring cases to an amicably negotiated settlement and not letting such a chance slip

  • using excessive amounts of time and resources on less important issues for example filing, organizing files, and collating files of papers to be used in court hearings

  • utilizing the services of numerous legal professionals where from the perspective of an objective legal professional carefully analyzing the situation and deciding that a single and   

  • mitigate the need for intervention by such external legal providers of legal services need to have a proportionate, fair, and, balanced billing process that has at the forefront of their minds the fair treatment of clients. 

Overcharging Lawyers Beware…Claimants Take Care

If clients of any configuration spot these discrepancies in their bills received from their preferred legal services provider they should contact their legal representative, review the document, assess and keep a record if they identify areas indicating excessive charges. Clients are primarily looking for any discrepancies such as twenty-five-minute telephone calls being incorrectly reported to be lasting more than sixty minutes. If clients do so they should oppose it, approach the provider informally communicate their concerns and attempt to resolve the matter. If no resolution can be found clients should consider submitting a formal complaint under the formal complaints procedure, industry regulator the SRA, and potentially the England and Wales Court system, depending on the seriousness of the matter and is a last resort. Client expectations need careful management, there are no guarantees of successfully resolving disputes, and if legal professionals do so, they will mitigate against the risks of further client complaints being received.      

ASSESSING FIRMS

#AddleshawGoddard #CMS #EvershedsSutherlandLLP #DLAPiper #PinsentMasonsLLP #Shoosmiths #BrabnersLLP #DavittJonesBould #DWF #GateleyPlc #HillDickinsonLLP #JMWSolicitorsLLP #KuitSteinartLevy #Mills&Reeve #SquirePatonBoggs #TLT #Clyde&CoLLP #BrowneJacobson

SOURCES USED WHEN WRITING THIS ARTICLE

[SOURCE 1] Sood, Haresh – Understanding legal costs and challenging overbilling – 5 May 2021 – Clerksroom - Understanding legal costs and challenging overbilling. - Lexology

[SOURCE 2] Hyde, John – Owner fined for dipping into client funds to pay the bills – Law Society Gazette – 8 March 2022 - Owner fined for dipping into client funds to pay the bills | News | Law Gazette

[SOURCE 3] Rose, Neil – “Old school” solicitor used £500,000 of client money to prop up form – Legal Futures - 18 November 2022 - "Old school" solicitor used £500,000 of client money to prop up firm - Legal Futures

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