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Legal costs too high??

(13 Posts)
Hermonie2016 Mon 09-Oct-17 12:53:54

I am in the middle of a divorce, fdr due next month.

At 1st hearing judge was highly negative about my costs to date.They had felt high to me and way outside the estimates the solicitor had given.I have also been advised by another solicitor (friend of a friend, very experienced family law solicitor) that they are double what would be expected at this stage.He is in London, I am in lower cost area.

I have tried to discuss costs with my solicitor and she has no real answer other than I am the applicant and "judges always say costs are too high". She says that as the value of joint assets is high (pensions and house) costs are not too disportionate but I don't think higher value on a house should drive up legal costs, especially as there is no dispute about house value.Ex is a very high earner but unwilling to pay more than the csa limit which is much lower than his actual salary, so that why we are off to court.

Other than finances there are no other disputes and the 15k bill, at fda stage, does not cover pension valuation costs or counsel for hearings.No offers have been negotiated as without pension my solicitor says its not worth it, which I understand.

My finances are very straightforward and I have completed all paperwork as requested.

I just wonder how best to handle this, last hearing the judge was really aggressive about my costs and I fear for a repeat at FDR as I appear litigious which is absolutely not the case.My ex's solicitor sends lots of letters and I have chosen not to engage if it doesn't reference finances.Despite this his bill was 50% of mine so it does feel strange.

My friend at the same firm had much lower costs (different solicitor) despite finances and contact being disputed.I asked the paralegal, who prepares invoices, and she said my solicitor charges differently.

Just not sure where to go with this.I want to be fair to my solicitor but so many other data references suggests my costs are out of line.
Any thoughts on how to handle this?

Collaborate Mon 09-Oct-17 12:59:40

What is your hourly rate? What kind of breakdown have they given you in their bills? Have they itemised by time each activity charged for?

MooseBeTimeForSnow Mon 09-Oct-17 13:07:23

Has your Solicitor revised the initial estimate you were given?

MrsBertBibby Mon 09-Oct-17 13:08:02

£15K to get to FDA is pretty steep, unless there has been a shed load of messing about with voluntary disclosure beforehand.

greenberet Mon 09-Oct-17 13:12:26

I had this too hermione -my x played lots of games i.e.not sending info, not answering questions being ambiguous with answers so everything had to be clarified. I would try and communicate with him direct to keep costs down and he would direct me back to sols then still not answer.

He played a game all the way through my total costs were extortionate. But I also believe my sols took advantage of situation - they forced through house sale so knew they had equity to use for fees. Didn't explain things fully so I had to question would prefer to do things in a meeting so could waffle on, or on phone when a quick email would answer.

Due to depression I preferred to communicate by email so I had a record - I now have a complaint against them. I also looked them up on review solicitors and someone else had said the same thing.

You can also request an itemised ledger which will give every single item - I found that they were charging me twice for some things. It's an odd situation they know you are vulnerable and I feel can easily take advantage of you.

Your gut feeling Is probably right - mine was but due to the emotional mess I was in didn't have the confidence to question and also didn't expect to get ripped off by people helping me.

burninghigh Mon 09-Oct-17 13:14:20

Ask for a breakdown. Your engagement letter will set out complaints procedure. Go through that. Your solicitor should have kept you very up to date with fees. Has your ex been difficult? Do you have lots of long winded conversations with your solicitor.
Always be prepared and talk quickly!

What is the basis of charging in your engagement letter - hourly rate or something different?

Unfortunately padding does go on and hourly rates are so high it doesn't take much to increase your bill substantially. It's dishonest though and the sra would take a dim view if substantiated.

babybarrister Mon 09-Oct-17 14:51:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MrsBertBibby Mon 09-Oct-17 15:34:53

That is very true. Some clients just don't grasp that if they call or email 5 times a day I am justified in billing them each time.

This is why frequent billing is important, so they can see what they are doing.

Some solicitors do really push it though. I heard of one guy who would charge 2 units "reviewing the file" every time a client called (on top of the call, of course). That's sharp practice.

Hermonie2016 Mon 09-Oct-17 16:36:18

Hi, thanks for responses, didn't expect so many.

Rate is £230. I haven't had a revision on costs however it is just finances and very few letters going back and forth as ex isn't negotiating.We did mediation, ex was unreasonable, solicitor wrote saying we would apply to court.Form E exchange and then prep for FDA.I completed my questionnaire and that was exchanged..Ex did rant over a school issue so I drafted a response which my solicitor used as input to her response.That has been the only non finance related letter.

My form E very straight forward.My ex didn't disclose much but gave lots of bank statements so solicitor went through those, which would have taken time.
There was a conference with counsel prior to fda which was 2 hours.Solicitor came to court when she previously said she wouldn't so I was surprised to see her there.FDA was really quick as other side agreed quesrionaire so it was a case of in/out.
Disclosure is now large volume of paper but I have said I will go through most of that to reduce costs as this is ontop of charges already.

I questioned costs and solicitor gave a breakdown which I showed friends solicitor, he specifically highlighted a few areas where he said times were very excessive.The case is straight forward, no dispute on house valuations, 3 pensions in total have gone for valuations so there was work involved in getting that setup.

Friends solicitor has said to ask for time recording to back up the invoices but that feels disrespectful and I wanted a good relationship.

I don't email the solicitor unless I have been asked for something, which is only finance related and solicitor friend believes our case very straight forward.Only recent correspondence was on barrister costs for FDR.

This is my worry that I appear litigious when it's just been a 'standard' finance case, house, pensions and large paye salary for ex.

I would rather not complain but is it reasonable to ask for time recordings? I fear ex will drag this to final hearing so costs could sky rocket.

I am worried the solicitor is linking costs to the value of assets, rather than work involved as a common answer has been "costs are not disproportionate to sums involved here"

MrsBertBibby Mon 09-Oct-17 16:59:11

Disrespectful? Bless you she's only your solicitor!

I don't doubt she has recorded all this time, but it's whether she has done so reasonably. I would expect to get a case like yours up to FDA for inside £5K, £6K at worst. Including advocacy.

Something's not right.

Hermonie2016 Mon 09-Oct-17 17:49:30

Yes, that's the estimated costs my ex had and what friends solicitor said.

I feel if she has done the work then fine but will raise it again and make the points from solicitors friend.
I know it's a service but it's also a relationship during tough times.

Wishingandwaiting Mon 09-Oct-17 17:55:45

Good lord! She won’t be linking her costs to the assets at stake. Utterly unprofessional. She would be very much in the wrong there and I highly doubt that is what she is doing.

On the occasion that she turned up despite saying she wasn’t going to be there - I would claw back that cost. Do you have an email wheee she says she won’t turn up?

Highlights bits that your friend has said seems excessive.

Don’t go in all gums blazing but she will be very used to people questioning costs.
I did with mine. 4x. Twice got the cost reduced, twice I ultimately agreed it was reasonable.

Giverortakeafew Wed 11-Oct-17 06:13:59

Link to asset value is a factor when explainimg costs to judge, not a basis for charging (unless expressly agrees with you).

Ask for breakdown. It is very common. Ask for fixed fees by stage going forward.

There are plenty of great solicitors out there who want privately funded work. Threaten to switch.

If you switch, get a deal where they read in for free.

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