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Can I offer the solicitor less than the bill if the service has been appalling?

(17 Posts)
whatsthematteryouheh Tue 29-Sep-09 22:17:59

So basically I went to the solicitor in June to have a separation agreement drafted. She said she would send it to my ex the following week. Well basically, after several phonecalls from me to chase it, and 2 months later, I was eventually emailed a copy of the agreement to check. I checked it and asked them to send it to my ex asap due to the existing delays. Two weeks later he still hadn't received it so I phoned to chase. Turns out they'd sent the previous week to the wrong address (they got the house number wrong). So they sent another copy, this time to the correct address. However they didn't attach the house content details - ex chased it with them and they never forwarded it until chased again. Finally after all that it has been sorted, a total of 3.5 months after my original meeting with the solicitor

I have now received the bill and really feel that I shouldn't pay this in full due to the shoddy service. Am I justified in sending a cheque for a reduced amount?

Hulababy Tue 29-Sep-09 22:21:35

I think you should speak to the solicitor and contest the bill properly. If you only pay part of it then they will chase you for the debt owing.

Have you put in any complaints to the solicitor during the time the legal work was taking place?

piscesmoon Tue 29-Sep-09 22:35:57

You will have to go through proceedures and contest the bill. I did it once. You fill in lots of forms and it takes ages. I eventually got some off, but not as much as I wanted.Unfortunately you can't get away with a reduced amount.

yerblurt Tue 29-Sep-09 22:36:29

ask for the firms complaints procedure, make a formal complaint disputing the bill as the service you have received is not what you would expect.

ask for a full breakdown of the costs too.

then you could make an official complaint to the partner of the firm.

you should get a reduction of the bill

if you don't anwhere with that then you could make an complaint to the law society about the firm, unfortunately the solicitors club is a cosy one and you won't get very far with that I'm afraid!

complaints link here:

piscesmoon Tue 29-Sep-09 22:37:47

I had kept copies of all correspondence and dates of phone calls, to support my claim.

whatsthematteryouheh Wed 30-Sep-09 07:22:35

thanks all - I'm wondering if it's worth all the hassle in that case. The total cost was £230 so maybe it would be easier just to pay it. Unfortunately the solicitor dealing with my case was actually a partner. I phoned many times to raise the issue of delays, but as they had seemingly cut down on office staff, I could only ever speak to someone on work experience who was just manning the phones

piscesmoon Wed 30-Sep-09 07:38:09

It takes months-I did it because it was the principle of the thing more than anything-they didn't do anything to justify the charge. I was able to prove that they hadn't done much. I think they all stick together, so no one says that it was wrong, they just knocked some off the bill. If you don't want the hassle I would still write a stiff letter of complaint.

mumoverseas Wed 30-Sep-09 12:13:09

sounds like you did get a poor service and it is not acceptable that you should have had to have kept chasing.
However, if it was £230 for taking instructions at initial interview and drafting the separation agreement that sounds quite reasonable. Normally at least a 45 min to 1 hour first interview then up to 1 hour drafting. My charging rate 4 years ago was £150 per hour and I would have thought a partners charging rate now would be more than that.
It may well be you've been charged a lower rate than originally anticipated as the solicitor accepted he'd dragged his heels.

When you first instructed him you would have received a client care letter with terms and conditions which should also have set out his charging rate (amount per hour, per letter, telephone call etc) and also the firms complaints proceedure

whatsthematteryouheh Wed 30-Sep-09 12:23:52

thanks mumoverseas

I was told verbally about the fees at the first meeting, but never received a letter (maybe she sent that one to the wrong address as well though!)

I think she said £300 + vat at the first meeting, but then when I got the bill thought I must have misheard her. Maybe you're right and she charged a lower amount due to the mess-ups

cassell Wed 30-Sep-09 12:28:00

I agree with mumoverseas that although the service does sound poor the amount seems very reasonable, my charging rate before I went on ML was £235 an hour (in London) and I'm only a couple of years qualified.

That said if you are not happy it is always worth calling them and explaining that you are not happy and believe you have been charged too much for the service you received - they may be willing to give you a bit of a discount to avoid having to deal with a complaint etc. Agree again with mumovereas though - you may have already been given a discount on what should have been charged but if you query the bill then they can explain that if that is indeed the case.

mumoverseas Wed 30-Sep-09 13:08:17

ooh, its nice when someone actually agrees with me on these threads rather than verbally abusing me wink

whatsthematter, even though you got a verbal quote you should have had the normal client care letter.

cassell, I was in the sticks, that was why I was so cheap grin

whatsthematteryouheh Wed 30-Sep-09 13:22:43

well seeing that I didn't get the client care letter, seems that this was another c*ck-up to add to the list!

TigerDrivesAgain Wed 30-Sep-09 13:28:42

I'd suggest you write back saying how poor you felt the service was and why, and say that although you appreciate that this isn't a huge bill, you do feel that some reduction should be offered to reflect the delays.

Unless s/he is a sole practitioner, there should be someone else you'd refer to with a complaint. If you write as above, the original lawyer may reduce the bill just to save him/her hassle. That would tend to be my approach if someone raises this sort of issue (and have justification, although of course it would never happen in my office). You ought to raise the issue of poor service: if the partner has delegated work to others and they're not delivered, they'd want to know about it.

Hope this helps.

babybarrister Wed 30-Sep-09 13:40:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

mumoverseas Wed 30-Sep-09 13:48:44

grin at babybarrister. Where were you the other night though. Could have done with a 'real' FQ lawyer defending me. I'm assuming there was not much on tv in the uk that night as all the loons were out wink

whatsthematter good luck and make sure if you are going to write and complain you do it sooner rather than later to avoid having them chasing you for payment and sending chasing letters

fridayschild Wed 30-Sep-09 13:54:48

Have you looked on the back of the bill? All the firms I have worked at put the small print there.

If you didn't get a client care letter that's a breach of professional conduct. You can still write to the firm with a letter addressed to the senior partner (just that as a job title) or to the complaints partner. Apart from being a breach of the conduct rules that doesn't get you much futher, unless what you remember about the cost from your meeting is not what you were actually billed.

You have the right to a renumeration certificate, where someone else assesses the costs. You need to pay half the bill, from memory and any out of pocket disbursements. There is another procedure but I don't know enough about it to tell whether that will apply in your case.

If you can't find the stuff about the renumeration certificate let me know and I will look on the back of my next bill to a client!

mumoverseas Wed 30-Sep-09 13:56:22

<brief hijack, sorry OP - babybarrister, just seen you did back me up. You are my new best friend grin>

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