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sears Tooth Agreement. yes or No?

(9 Posts)
aokay Fri 28-Dec-12 14:15:44

Hi - am hoping someone may have some experience of this, either personal or via a client if a legal bod. I am going through an acrimonious divorce and residence battle - ex has money, I have none - all savings now gone. solicitor is suggesting a Swears Tooth Agreement which will mean I have to repay solicitor first out of any monies I receive in a financial settlement. i expect to receive enough for housing - I have specific housing needs which slightly complicate things, and am afraid that the solicitor ill drive up costs in the knowledge they will get paid whatever. I have had problems with letters etc being written without my instruction and am angry I am being charged when have no control over spending. My ex sends ridiculous amounts of correspondence to my solicitor, most of which i would ignore but solicitor is replying to at my expense .. I badly need advice - I am existing on small amount of benefit - no interim support despite solicitor promising it, ex not paying bills at fmh despite court order - we have no heating, ex stopped paying utilities so I have taken on accounts for them without means to pay... things looking very bleak and Im worried sick.. Any advice appreciated. We are at the point of sorting out the finances - which are complicated so I do not feel able to self represent. I feel an obligation to my kids to preserve asetts for them so am very worried about the fees - paid in excess of 20k so far and owe 9. Ex can afford multiple barristers - he is also hiding assets, and no one appears to be doing anything about it - he pleads poverty so only pays small amount child support. Part of me think s have no choice as have to have solicitor - would cost more to change than worth it and will get nothing of do not enter sears agreement - part of me is afraid will get nothing if do enter into sears agreement as legal fees will take get the lot. Accounting awful via solicitor - I initially handed over largish lump sum and no-one told me when running out so very shocked to be given bill in excess of 10k with no warning...seem to run up fees even when I have no contact with solicitor - we have had 3 court appearances/ which I appreciate are expensive but even so...
Also, solicitor very bad at communicating - we had dates changed, court cancelled and no one bothered to tell me even though solicitor managed to tell his colleague on other side.
We are at the point of financial 'deal' and my solicitor has most of the info - do I have any choices here?
Firm do not operate via legal aid.

Collaborate Fri 28-Dec-12 16:20:20

Just because you sign up to a sears tooth doesn't mean you lose all the usual protection over costs. Your solicitor must still give you a cost estimate and notify you when that changes. You can stipulate that costs should not go above a certain limit at a certain stage, but you may find yourself without representation at a crucial time. Your solicitor MUST read all his letters (and charge you for it). What if there's something important in it and they've just ignored it? Maybe ask them to set out to your ex that they will deal with him through the court process rather than engage in interminable correspondence.

RedHelenB Fri 28-Dec-12 17:20:51

Bottom line - how much do you expect to gain? Not worth racking up huge legal costs if there isn't much in the way of assets as your ex is already proving he can play the system & not make payments/

aokay Mon 31-Dec-12 01:06:57

thanks for responses - feel stupid admitting this but solicitor never mentions costs at all - just hammers me with massive bill - obviously I need to get control of this somehow - thanks again for responding.

Feckthehalls Mon 31-Dec-12 01:25:27

your solicitor sounds dreadful. Have they actually done anything at all to your advantage so far? Do you feel able to talk to them?
Why do you think you could not self represent? I know people who have done it very successfully. Ordinary people .

Collaborate Mon 31-Dec-12 08:32:14

Check all the letters your solicitor has sent you. They must give you a cost estimate at the outset and update it regularly if it changes. If they haven't done that I'd consider changing solicitors and challenging the bill you've already received.
Before you sign a ST agreement you need to have spoken to another solicitor (formally, as in you pay them for this advice) about the ST agreement itself. Choose yourself which solicitor you go to for this, and go armed with a big list of questions, including cost estimates.

I'm staggered your solicitor has spoken to you about a ST agreement but not written to you with a cost estimate. Check ALL your letters and then post back again.

mumblechum1 Tue 01-Jan-13 13:01:49

Agree with Colloborate. They should have sent you a client care letter at the outset and refused to do any significant work until they'd received a copy countersigned by you (this usually happens at the same time as they ask for your ID).

Collaborate Tue 01-Jan-13 16:46:36

Mumbles I don't think a client needs to sign the client care letter/terms of business for it to be a binding agreement in contentious matters. That's what ours says anyway(!)

mumblechum1 Tue 01-Jan-13 19:29:19

Oooh, we were told never to do anything (except for the odd letter in an emergency) without signed CC letter as someone previously in the firm had had their bill disallowed by the Ombudsman when it emerged that the client hadn't signed one.

I agree that it should be the case that the fact of ongoing instructions should make it binding, though.

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