If you have received a bill (i.e. an invoice) from your solicitor which you consider may be unreasonable, excessive or disproportionate for the work that you instructed to be done, our specialist costs lawyers can help you understand the work done and consider the reasonableness of the invoice(s) and, if appropriate, advise on the process of an assessment with your current solicitors.
We specialise in detailed assessments where clients are disputing the charges of their former solicitors. If you instruct us we will vigorously fight your case to get a reduction of your bill. Our London lawyers are based just minutes from the Senior Courts Costs Office and can be deployed with speed as the client’s needs and case demands.
What is Detailed Assessment?
If a statute bill has been delivered to a client and the client believes they have been overcharged then the client can commence detailed assessment proceedings or a request can be made to the Senior Courts Costs Office to make a detailed assessment of the bill. If upon assessment, the bill is determined to be unreasonable, the bill will be reduced. Our costs lawyers have extensive experience in assessment of bill proceedings before the SCCO.
When is a client entitled to seek detailed assessment? What are the time limits?
Under s.70(2), a client is entitled to assessment as a right if an application is made within one month of delivery. A client has a short time to challenge a solicitors’ bill so it is imperative to contact us quickly to ensure your right to an assessment does not become time-barred (although a court has discretion to order detailed assessment within 12 months of the bill being rendered provided special circumstances are shown). A Part 8 claim form (N208), the relevant court application fee and a copy of the disputed bill must be sent to the SCCO or local District Registry (along with the issue fee of £55).
What are Points of Dispute?
If the Court is satisfied as to entitlement it will make a Court Order allowing a detailed assessment to take place. If a detailed assessment Order is not granted by the Court, then we can also assist in appealing the decision. Following the Order, the solicitor will complete a detailed assessment request form (N258C) and serve a detailed bill of costs upon the client. At this stage, the client- often within 21 days- must provide Points of Dispute which challenges the costs, failing which a Default Costs Certificate will be obtained by the solicitor.
We are highly experienced in preparing well-crafted Points of Dispute examining every aspect of a bill. CPR 47.9 states that Points of Dispute must “identify any general points or matters of principle which require decision before the individual items in the bill are addressed” and “identify specific points, stating concisely the nature and grounds of dispute.” For example, examining excessive time, disproportionate number of communications, unreasonable disbursements and unnecessary counsel meetings claimed, to formulate a claim that a competent solicitor acting with all due skill and care should have been able to complete the same without the need to charge a disproportionate fee.
What happens at the detailed assessment hearing?
The Court’s Costs Judge will determine what was a reasonable amount for the solicitor to have charged on their bill based on the challenges raised in the Points of Dispute and the Reply. The Costs Judge examines the bill in detail and in particular, examines how reasonable the costs are to the case’s issues judged on an indemnity basis.
Once the SCCO has decided the amount of the bill payable, usually payment must be made within 14 days or the solicitor will be required to return funds to the client together with any accrued interest.
Can I get my legal costs of the solicitor/client proceedings?
Ordinarily, in litigation the CPR provides that the unsuccessful party pays the costs of the successful party. However, in legal costs assessment proceedings, a crucial factor is the amount by which the solicitors’ invoice is reduced by on assessment. According to the Solicitors’ Act 1974:
“the costs of an assessment shall be paid according to the event of the assessment, that is to say, if the amount of the bill is reduced by one fifth, the solicitor shall pay the costs, but otherwise the party chargeable shall pay the costs.”(s.70(9) Solicitors Act 1974)
Therefore, if the client reduces the solicitors’ bill by one fifth (20%) or more, then the client is entitled to the costs of the statutory detailed assessment proceedings.
We represent you at Detailed Assessment Hearings
We are based in the legal heart of London as the only law firm in the historic Middle Temple Chambers we provide comprehensive nationwide coverage to represent you at any detailed assessment hearing. Unlike most law firms, we are a mutli-disciplinary firm of solicitors and barristers with full rights of audience in England and Wales.
We are based just minutes from the Senior Courts Costs Office in the Royal Courts of Justice where all detailed assessment hearings proceed. We regularly represent clients at the Senior Courts Costs Office.
Not based in London? We provide nationwide representation
That does not matter, we will represent you no matter where you are based in England or Wales.
If you contact us through our contact form, by email or by phone, one of our legal costs team members will contact you by phone to discuss your matter and assess whether we can help you.
Solicitor and own client costs disputes
We specialise in costs disputes at the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO) proceeding under the Solicitors Act 1974. That is why we can offer a no win no fee agreement to clients once we have had sight of the relevant papers (and ideally a detailed bill of costs). This means you do not have to pay us anything should your solicitor’s bill not be reduced.
We will advise you on the merits of reducing your solicitor’s invoice. Discuss the merits of early protective without prejudice settlement offers. We draft Points of Dispute (for clients) and Points of Reply (for solicitors). We will Represent you at any directions hearing, preliminary issues hearing and the detailed assessment hearing before the SCCO.
London Specialist Legal Costs Lawyers
Our SCCO Legal Costs Dispute Lawyers are experienced in checking and disputing legal fees. We are experts in assessing whether the time claimed for is reasonable and whether your solicitor may have overcharged. We are well versed in both negotiating a reduction with your solicitor and attending detailed assessment proceedings at court if necessary. Our team have an in-depth knowledge of litigation against the client or solicitor under the Solicitors Act 1974.
As a leading high-profile law firm regularly featured in the national and international media and with a track record of success, you can be assured your Legal Costs claim will proceed with precision and care.
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