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Is £14 too much for an e-mail?

(10 Posts)
GentleOtter Sat 20-Sep-08 11:00:01

I'm finding this hard to type as I can't breathe properly with shock.

I am in the middle of an appeal against the LEA in order to try and get my child into a special school.
We had signed forms for legal aid but two minutes before the second appeal started, our lawyer told us that we were not eligible for legal aid.

They made a complete mess of the appeal and we lost. I wrote to say that we no longer wanted them to represent us and their bill came in today.
Listed are several emails at £14 each! - £77 for emails alone. Surely this is excessive?

Twims Sat 20-Sep-08 11:06:34

Cheaper than our solicitor

GentleOtter Sat 20-Sep-08 11:09:02

How can they justify charging that?
I cannot pay their final bill as it is into four figures. I feel sick.

Soapbox Sat 20-Sep-08 11:12:06

TBH - at my accountancy firm we bill in units of 15 mins. So each email would be charged at a minimum of 15 mins. That would make their hourly rate only £56, which is tiny! What level was the person sending the email? Were they qualified?

I think it is very cheap!

GentleOtter Sat 20-Sep-08 11:13:31

The secretary wrote them. Some of them are only a few words long ie no huge paragraphs or anything. Oh God.

mumoverseas Sat 20-Sep-08 13:02:51

I used to work for several different firms of solicitors and it appears from what you say that they haven't complied with proper practices. The minute they knew you didn't have legal aid they should have advised you of their private charging rates and should have sent you a very long detailed terms of business letter setting out who was representing you, their status (ie solicitor, legal executive etc) and what their charging rate was per hour. There should have also been a breakdown of the cost of letters (emails would come under this too) and also phone calls which would normally have a 'per call' charge unless they were lengthly and if so, they would be charged under the hourly rate, ie if 15 mins then a quarter of the hourly rate. I used to charge £150 per hour and telephone calls (short) and letters (short to medium length not containing pages of legal advice) were charged at 1/10th of hourly rate therefore £15 each. I therefore can only assume that the fee earner (person representing you) was charging an hourly rate of £140. You need to write to the senior partner stating that you are shocked by this bill as you (presumably) had never received a terms of business (as required by the Law Society) and that you had initially thought you were getting legal aid. If you feel that they made a really bad job of your case and were negligent (not just that it was not a strong case) then potentially you could have grounds for a negligence claim but that would be a very long process. Best to try to clarify the situation regarding the bill first. If they haven't sent you terms of business, then they are in the wrong and a very good chance you could get the bill reduced or even written off depending upon how much work was done and the circumstances (ie whether there is any evidence that you were informed ref costs) good luck

GentleOtter Sat 20-Sep-08 13:21:52

Thank you mumoverseas. The terms of business were sort of given to me just before the appeal. I mean two minutes to 2pm (when the appeal was to be held).
I did not have time to go through them as we were called in to the meeting and not only was I very apprehensive about the appeal itself (as the lawyer did not go over her intended route with me) but I was livid that she gave me no time to take the case myself.She insisted I sign the business terms before we went in.
She also got several important facts quite wrong which blew the appeal, in my opinion.

mumoverseas Sat 20-Sep-08 14:06:55

well presumably the terms of business were quite long (mine used to be around 6 pages) so with only 2 minutes before going in to court how did you manage to read them? I assume therefore you didn't have the opportunity to read them and essentially signed them under duress (with no choice as presumably she said she wouldn't represent you in the hearing if you didn't sign?) worth a letter to the senior partner setting out everything you've said on here. good luck

GentleOtter Sat 20-Sep-08 14:14:58

Many, many thanks.

You are right in saying that she would not represent us if I did not sign and no, I did not read the terms before signing although I would normally go through these things with a fine toothed comb.
In this instance, there was no time to read the terms as we had just been called to go through.

I will write to the senior partner and try to get this sorted out.

n5rje Sat 20-Sep-08 18:04:02

In general solicitors charge in blocks of 6 minutes of time i.e ten blocks per hour and a short email would be one unit of time so unless the secretary is charged at £140 per hour £14 must be for a longer email at £70 per hour. Depending on which part of the country you live this probably isn't excessive. I'm not a solicitor so don't know how much info you should have been given beforehand but ime they will be likely to be open to discussing the bill with you and coming to a comprimise on the fee rather than falling out with you.

If you are able to I'd try to discuss it with them as unemotionally as possible - say why you feel its too much and just ask them to review it and consider a reduction in the fee.

Good luck

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