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Solicitor going over initial fees

(8 Posts)
BettyBloomfield Tue 06-Sep-11 23:05:24

I have instructed two solicitors recently (long story) and in both cases exactly the same thing has happened - we discuss circumstances and they agree a limit on fees. Both gave an estimation of costs but included the usual caveat of allowing for 'other circumstances'.

In both cases I wanted the sol to take a problem to court. Each time, as I say, they said they'd do exactly that and it would cost around £500.

Each time they wanted a deposit - around £350 was handed over.

They'd write initial letters to start process. (Most recent situation; two letters notifying relevant parties that it was going to court). The responses were totally expected (lack of co-operation from ex/lack of response)

I then get told the bill is already at the figure we had agreed as a total estimation for completion of the work? They await my instruction....

There is no money left to take it to court? I made it clear that I only had £500 in the budget and from my pov they spent it on preliminary letters knowing that I'd never make it to court on the budget allowed.

I'm getting cynical now and wonder if there is a standard 'hook' to get clients and once they've spent money the client feels obliged to follow through by spending more.

In the first instance I immediately asked for a breakdown in costs and an explanation of how we'd reached the £500 limit at which point I was told he'd now reached £1000 and wanted a further £500 to continue.....again I remonstrated and he said he would cost £2500-£3000 to complete. The price seemed to rise by silly amounts the more I asked about the costs and we achieved very little.

Anyway.....I paid a court fee and filled in paperwork myself and took it to court (cursing the fact I'd wasted lots of money on a solicitor to do exactly that). The court fee was £45 and I did it the very next week. It was a 'simple' matter tbh. The sol had taken 4 months to get to the point of charging me £1000 and not actually taking it to court.

I'm now on situation No. 2 with new sol because of loss of confidence in the first and we have exactly the same scenario. I am tired and want to pay for legal help (hence not diying this) but don't have a limitless budget. It seems that instructing a solicitor requires one and endless patience because nothing moves fast.

I've reread the initial instruction summary etc - it's very clear. I've reread the estimation of costs - it's also clear however the caveat means they can basically say that the lack of response/co-operation are 'unexpected circumstances'. They are not. I told her this would happen from the off

It feels like throwing good money after bad to continue.

Can anyone advise what I should do? At the moment I feel like the only answer is to never use a sol ever again. They neither do what you ask nor keep to costs agreed.

mumofsoontobelawstudent Wed 07-Sep-11 06:55:10

hmm given your extremely negative comments about solicitors in general, rather sweeping statements I would say, I would imagine it is unlikely you will get much helpful advice from the many solicitors that post on here regularly!

Georgimama Wed 07-Sep-11 07:06:09

For example, the Civil Procedure Rules require at least 21 days written notice to be given prior to commencing proceedings, so preliminary letters would need to be sent. The Family Procedure Rules have similar requirements for notices to be given before certain steps can be taken.

Are you aware that when you send your solicitor an email or letter yourself, or ring them, you are charged for that? Their letter setting out the retainer should make that clear. Solicitors charge their time in six minutes unit - so one 2 min telephone call is a unit. A 19 minute telephone call is 3 units. Units are charged at 1/10 of the relevant fee earner's hourly rate + VAT. Time spent reading through papers is charged in the same way.

I'm unclear as to how or why you came to instruct a solicitor to represent you in a matter where the court fee was only £45. It's not clear from your post whether it was a matrimonial matter or a claim for debt - if the latter that would put the matter firmly in the small claims track and you must have spent more on legal costs than the matter was worth.

Georgimama Wed 07-Sep-11 07:07:44

In any case if you aren't happy you should contact the complaints partner at the firm in question in the first case, and if you aren't happy after that you can contact the Legal Ombudsman.

BettyBloomfield Wed 07-Sep-11 08:10:40

law student mum - which bits were negative and sweeping as opposed to a factual account of my experience and thoughts about it?

Georgimama - I do intend to raise it with the firm as you describe. I also expected the preliminary letters (as would the sol who gave me the inital estimate). No extra calls or letters have taken place which is why I'm so surprised to find that the work now requires more money.

It was not debt nor exactly 'matrimonal'. It was failure to comply with a consent order and I asked judge to intervene on the first occasion
Useful information regarding the units thank you.

mumofsoontobelawstudent Wed 07-Sep-11 08:55:34

BettyBloomfield - well, how about this quote? Is this not negative towards solicitors and is it not a sweeping statement to imply that they don't do what you ask or keep to agreed costs?

'Can anyone advise what I should do? At the moment I feel like the only answer is to never use a sol ever again. They neither do what you ask nor keep to costs agreed.'

STIDW Wed 07-Sep-11 09:45:06

I'm not a solicitor but there is a general court rule that the unsuccessful party pays the successful party's costs. If the issue was non compliance with a consent order did you ask for a costs order?

emsyj Wed 07-Sep-11 10:00:47

The fact that you have had the same problem twice, with two different solicitors and in a short period of time, suggests to me that the problem is likely to have been that you have not understood what would be covered by the fee quote. Did you receive and read a formal engagement letter from each solicitor? This should set out exactly what would be done and for what fee.

£500 is not a level of fees that would cover 'taking a case to court' in my experience, although I am not a litigator. It appears that they have charged you for initial work, probably with the idea that they would need to ascertain what steps would be necessary before quoting for the full amount of the work. This should have been made clear. It is often difficult to estimate fees until a matter has developed a little, but again this should have been explained to you.

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