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Can You Negotiate Solicitors Fees?

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All legal proceedings will incur costs, and services offered by Solicitors may be expensive. Following the completion of any legal work, you are likely to receive a statute bill of costs from your Solicitor, listing their charges for all work completed and any disbursements which may have been incurred throughout the proceedings. On receipt of this type of bill, you may ask yourself, “can you negotiate Solicitors fees?” The good news is, in most cases, you will be able to negotiate a bill of costs directly with a Solicitor informally. If informal negotiations fail, you may be able to formally negotiate the bill through Detailed Assessment under the Solicitors Act 1974.

Types of Fees Listed on a Statute Bill from a Solicitor

There will be a number of different fees and disbursements listed on a statute bill from a solicitor. Legal proceedings are often time-consuming, and whether you request assistance from a large high street firm of solicitors, or a very small firm, you will almost always be required to pay a sum of money for the Solicitor’s time spent working on your case. In some cases, a fixed fee will be set out at the beginning of proceedings; in others, an hourly rate may be set by the Solicitor.

If, for example, you required a Conveyancing Solicitor to help you buy a house, a large sum of costs are likely to be incurred throughout the conveyancing process. The Solicitor may charge a set hourly rate for undertaking tasks, such as, making telephone calls, drafting legal documents, and for assisting in in the exchange of contracts. Disbursements incurred may include the costs of conducting searches, stamp duty, and additional conveyancing costs may be incurred, for example, when purchasing a leasehold property.

Can You Negotiate Solicitors Fees if you Have Agreed to a Quote?

In some areas of law, it is common to receive a quote from the Solicitor before any work has been undertaken on your file. When buying a house, your Solicitor may provide you with a conveyancing quote, and at that stage, you can review the quote and obtain further quotes from other firms of solicitors and licensed conveyancers to compare.

If you have agreed to a quote provided by a Solicitor, it is unlikely that you will be able to negotiate the Solicitors fees when you have received the statute bill at the end of the case. It is advisable that you negotiate the fees with the Solicitor before agreeing to any quote.

Can You Negotiate Solicitors Fees if you Have Been Provided with an Estimate of Costs?

If you have instructed a Solicitor to act on your behalf, you may be provided with an estimate on costs within your retainer letter or information pack. If the costs in the Statute Bill exceed the costs listed in the quote by more than 20 percent, there may be scope to negotiate the fees due to the fact that the Solicitor provided a poor estimation of costs.

Negotiating Solicitors Fees

Negotiating Solicitors fees can be complex, and may require someone with in depth knowledge of legal costs and adequate skill to successfully negotiate a bill and achieve a reduction in legal fees. The first step in the negotiation of solicitors fees would be by way of informal negotiations with the Solicitor who provided the bill.

ARC Costs have years of experience in negotiating all types of legal costs, including Solicitor’s fees. We would be happy to assist you by contacting the Solicitors on your behalf and informally negotiating your Solicitors fees.

If we are unsuccessful in our negotiations, we can provide you with advice on the next steps, including formally negotiating your bill through the process of Detailed Assessment.

Negotiating Solicitors Fees Through Detailed Assessment

If you believe that the fees charged by your Solicitor are excessive, it may be worth making an application to challenge the bill under the Solicitors Act 1947. An application should be made to the Senior Courts Costs Office, for a detailed assessment of the fees charged by the Solicitor.

There are some time limits which you should consider when making your application for detailed assessment. The time limits run from the date on which the bill was sent to you by the Solicitor.

The general rule is that you will be automatically entitled to a detailed assessment if you apply to the Court within a month of the bill being delivered to you. Applications received after the first month will be approved at the Court’s discretion, and you will be required to prove special circumstances of the case in this instance. 

To make an application to the Court, you will be required to complete a Part 8 Claim Form and pay the appropriate Court fee.

An Order will be provided by the Court, giving directions for the Solicitor to provide a detailed bill of costs, and for parties to exchange submissions on the same. The matter will then be listed for a Detailed Assessment Hearing.

The main method of disputing legal costs during the detailed assessment process is through use of Points of Dispute; these are also known as the Precedent G. The paying party will have 21 days from service of the Bill of Costs to make written legal contentions to the costs claimed on the Solicitors bill. Contentions may be made in relation to the validity of the retainer, appropriate hourly rates, and proportionality.

If the paying party fail to serve their points of dispute on time, there will be costs consequences.

On receipt of the points of dispute, the receiving party must then make formal points of reply to the contentions made within 21 days. Both parties’ arguments will then be considered when the Court assesses the costs to be awarded.

At the hearing, the Court will assess the Solicitors Bill of Costs, and a Costs Order will be made. If you are happy with the level of costs approved, you should pay the costs and conclude the dispute.

If you wish to continue disputing legal costs, you will need to make an appeal.

It is important to note that you may be held responsible for the Solicitor’s costs in the assessment process if the bill of costs is not reduced by at least 20%. It is, therefore, essential that you seek the assistance of a Costs Draftsman before you decide to challenge Solicitor’s fees in the Court formally.

How Can ARC Costs Assist?

If you have received a bill from a Solicitor and you are wondering “can you negotiate solicitors fees?”, we may be able to assist. It is always worth speaking to a specialist Costs Draftsman, or Costs Lawyer, to ensure you are taking the correct approach. At ARC Costs, all our initial legal advice is free of charge. Our specialist costs team hold extensive experience in disputing and negotiating legal costs, preparing Points of Dispute and providing representation at Detailed Assessment. If you would like to discuss your query further, please contact us on 01204 397302, or email us at info@arccosts.co.uk.

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