Your Legal Bill launched

Having been involved in legal costs for a number of years few things surprise me.

However, the number of enquiries to our new website Your Legal Bill has been staggering such is the level of disquiet with the cost of legal services.

One recent example involved a person harassed by a utility company. Such was the level of harassment proceedings were commenced and a costs order made in the customers favour. We successfully obtained a default judgement for costs of a few thousand pounds to represent the blood sweat and tears of the customer.

In another case, the client received an order requiring him to pay £6000 in 14 days. The client had been involved in litigation for some time and lost an interim hearing having been abandoned by his solicitor only days before. We not only set that order aside relieving the stress for the client, but reduced the liability for costs to less than £1000.

Go to our website Your Legal Bill to see if we can help you.

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Judges

A Judge is supposed to be impartial, knowledgeable and willing to give everyone a fair trial. These are entitlements provided by virtue of the European Court of Human Rights.

So, two hearings in two weeks. The first Judge did not know the civil procedure rules governing portal claims, the second did not understand the fundamental rules governing CFAs and modern practices.

There excuse is that they have only had one day’s training on costs which is less than a costs lawyer undertaking his CPD. So how are they going to cope with the flurry of changes coming into effect over the coming months?

Every decision appealed? For the next 5 years?

Winners-lawyers
Losers-judges as they hate costs but will have even more to deal with without sufficient training

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What do you expect from a Solicitor?

When I first became involved in the legal profession back in the time that Noah was building the ark, if you had an accident, you went to see your solicitor who wrote a letter to the defendant to let them know of your intention to claim. You were then sent to see a medical expert to see what was wrong with you. If the doctor said you needed further treatment, then you may get it on the NHS or privately but often this was nine months after the accident.

Likewise, having a business dispute? The only winners were the lawyers.

That was back then. Things are changing.

Various law lords have been advocating the end of the hourly rate and solicitors have been adapting.
What should you expect? A new breed of legal firms is emerging.

Now, if I was to say go and see your solicitor for physio following a car crash, you may think that’s weird but that’s what one firm is doing. Involved in running a business but worried about employee disputes? No problem, we’ve got insurance for that. Business litigation equals fixed fees and before the event insurance – no more sleepless nights worrying about large bills.

If you believe that this type of service would help you, then do not hesitate to contact me and I will gladly put you in touch with a solicitor that goes the extra mile without causing you any difficulties.

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Using a solicitor

When you decide that you need to instruct a solicitor, whether it is for buying a house-conveyancing; accident at work-personal injury; disputing a will, there are a number of things you and your solicitor should do.

First thing is gather as much information together as possible. If it is a debt recovery action for example you need the name and address of the person or company who owes you money, who the manager is, business trading address – things that would make your solicitors jobs simpler. But surely that’s their job I hear you say? Think of it this way – they’re on £200 per hour – finding this info would easily save you £400 plus VAT.

What should your solicitor do?

Give you legal advice – goes without saying – why else would you be there.

Give you advice about how you are going to pay them and how much it will cost. Solicitors are a business and they need to make money. The only way they can do this is if you can and will pay them. The only way they can get you to pay them is if they explain this to you at the outset and give you updated advice throughout the case. Sounds simple – not all do it. The Legal Ombudsman found that information about costs is the most complained about thing where solicitors are concerned. Just because there is a chance you can get your money back from the other side in the case of litigation does not mean you will get it all back.

So then, what next? Why might I not get it all back?

Firstly, if you failed to do your homework and provide your solicitor with all relevant and useful info, the solicitor may have to spend time doing it unnecessarily – why should your opponent pay for it? Another common mistake is for a client to spend too long with the solicitor – they are not counsellors. If you go to a solicitor and spend 3 hours crying or ranting for instance, your solicitor may be too polite to tell you to shut up, but the other side will say you should have. Why should the opponent pay £600 plus VAT for you to have therapy – even if it was them who caused the angst? A judge will usually disallow such a claim, but the solicitor will still charge you for it.

I have lost count of the number of cases where a solicitor is instructed and after the dust has settled, the wronged person is out of pocket.

So in summary, do as much work as you can, don’t waste your solicitor’s time and stay focused on what matters. This way it won’t cost you a fortune.

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Hidden Costs Of Litigation

Most people should know that when they instruct a solicitor, it will cost them money. Solicitors charges are either calculated by way of a fixed fee, a percentage of damages or the estate, or by reference to time spent multiplied by an hourly rate. In addition, clients may be asked to pay for something called disbursements – fees paid to other people, usually experts, or court fees etc.

But litigation has further costs involved. When people ask me what are the chances of success, I normally tell them you have a good or bad chance, but litigation is uncertain. Why is this? Surely the law is straightforward? Guess again.

If a case goes to trial there are all sorts of things that can and will go wrong, not least you get the wrong Judge. Judges are supposed to be unbiased and fair but with the greatest respect to Judges, they have political views and opinions just like you or I.  One District Judge in the Midlands area still favours the solicitor firm where he undertook his training many moons ago, a Judge somewhere in the north clearly dislikes female advocates. I once lost an argument based on the fact that my argument was based on evidence from a barrister who practiced law in a rival chambers to that in which his daughter was a tenant. Some Judges are pro-claimant, others are pro-defendant.

lawsuit lotto

Legal Lottery

So this then brings me on to the hidden costs.

These hidden costs of litigation affect businesses and people involved in litigation. They may not show on a business balance account in the same way as legal charges do, but they show in other ways:

  • Time spent worrying
  • Time spent by companies dealing with the dispute
  • Sleepless nights
  • Time spent providing and collating evidence, or attending solicitors
  • Consequent disruption and possible loss of overtime/revenue/income
  • Emotional strain and potential ill health
  • Potential loss of business

The above is a bleak list, and so it is vital that when contemplating litigation, to collect and record as much information as possible. If you have had an accident, take photos as soon as possible of the accident site and injuries; if it is business related get as much information as possible about the dispute and the opponents finances and assets so that firstly your solicitor has sufficient information, and secondly, so you are not paying your solicitor to do this work at £180 per hour or so. And finally – choose a good firm of solicitors – not necessarily the cheapest, as the difference between a good solicitor and a bad one is the difference between a win or loss, or £1000s in compensation.

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Choosing & instructing a Solicitor

Whether you’re moving house, getting married, or making a will, you’ll need the right solicitor to give you the information and service you need.

Here’s how you can choose the right solicitor.

1. You’ll need to establish what you need a solicitor for. Are you getting divorced? Disputing a will? Claiming compensation for an accident that wasn’t your fault? Do you want help rewriting you company handbooks or employment contracts?

2. Once you know what you want a solicitor for, you’ll be able to determine which area of law you need. Will you need a family law solicitor? Probate solicitors? Employment law solicitors? Clinical negligence solicitors? A good source is the Law Society Website

3. You’ll also need to have some idea as to what help you need, and how your solicitor can help. If you’re moving house, getting divorced, or writing a will, it’s likely to be more straightforward than trying to claim compensation for an accident, or want to stop your ex from taking your children out of the country.

4. Depending on what area of law you need, and what you want your solicitor to do for you, you can then decide whether you need a local or specialist solicitor. A local solicitor is likely to be the best choice if you’re moving house, whilst a firm of personal injury specialists might be what you need if your accident claim isn’t straightforward.

5. You’ll want to choose a firm of solicitors with plenty of experience in the area of law you need. Although everybody has to start somewhere, you won’t want your case handled by a solicitor with no experience.

6. It’s essential that you get on with your solicitor, and that you have a good relationship with them. This is obviously going to be easier if you communicate face to face in person, but this isn’t always possible.

7. Your solicitor will need to show empathy when required, so that you feel reassured that you’ll treated like a person, and not a case number. You might be recounting a harrowing or painful experience, or spending a lot of money on a house, and you’ll want fell comfortable dealing with your solicitor.

8. Effective communication is essential, so that you don’t have to keep contacting your solicitor to find out where your case is up to, or what will happen next.

9. As well as communicating with you, your solicitor will need to act promptly, so that you’re not waiting around, and that you won’t have to wait weeks to hear anything, only to be told that you need to provide some paperwork, or sign a document, and that somebody forgot to tell you.

10. The cost of your solicitor should not be the determining factor. You’ll be going through a potentially life changing experience, or making decisions that could cost you more than just money. You’ll want to get the most appropriate solicitor so that you can be sure that they are capable of giving you’re the results you need, whether you’re changing your company’s IT policy, or getting divorced. The difference between a good solicitor and a bad one could be the difference between winning and losing. One further point is good ones are not always the most expensive.

11. Make sure that you obtain a detailed written explanation of how the solicitor proposes to charge, and whether it is a solicitor, legal executive or trainee/paralegal who you are paying to advise. A firm should provide you not only with how there fees are calculated but an estimate of the likely fees you will be charged for. A solicitor should investigate how you intend to pay for the service and whether you have insurance or other means available such as legal aid.

12. If in doubt, contact Carlisle Legal Services who have been dealing with law firms throughout England & Wales for many years and know which are the best.

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Should litigants in person pursue their costs?

The pursuit of legal costs is a skill that eludes many experienced lawyers never mind litigants in person. A recent caller contacted me to say that they had been forced to have their default costs certificate set aside. I was temporarily impressed that they had got one, until I was informed that the reason it was set aside was because the bill had never been served properly in the first place.

Many people reading this will not have a clue what a default costs certificate is. That is why it should be left to experts. Whilst instructing a costs lawyer may cost money, in the long run it should be a more cost effective route. It should normally also result in a swifter conclusion as less time will be wasted and court hearings will be conducted with greater efficiency.

A fixed fee arrangement can give the unwary litigant costs certainty so why not contact us to help.

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