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Interim Bill and Final Bill: Statute Bills

 

 

 

 

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What is a Final Statute Bill?

A final statute bill is one which is presented to a client on the conclusion of their case requesting payment of all outstanding costs to date relating to the case. For a bill to be deemed a statute bill, it must comply with the Solicitors Act 1974. As per Section 69 (2) of the act, the Bill must be signed and must be delivered to the party personally responsible of the payment of the Bill. To be enforceable, the Bill for contentious business must be compliant with both section 69 and 64 of the act. 

If a Solicitor serves a bill to their client, the client can challenge the Bill, particularly in a non-contentious business agreement ( formally known as a Conditional Fee Agreement) by asking the Court to assess the Bill, by way of Detailed Assessment, under Section 70 of the Solicitors Act 1974. This must be done within one month of the date of the statute bill if the fees have already been paid or 12 months if the Bill has not yet been paid. 

Interim Bill and Final Bill: What Makes a Bill a Statute Bill?

 

As previously mentioned, the Bill must be compliant with s.69 and 64 of the Solicitors Act 1974. In the case of Slade v Boodie & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 2667, it was made clear that a statute bill must:

 

– Contain sufficient narrative.

– Be a reasonably complete account of the fees rendered.

– Give the client enough information to decide whether to have the fees assessed.

– Allow the client to assess the Bill. 

– Be a request for payment on account of costs.

 

What is a Chamberlain Bill?

 

A Chamberlain bill must contain a sufficient narrative and must comprise of a series of bills with a deemed date of the final invoice. 

This will arise when individual bills do not satisfy the requirements of statute bills or due to a lack of agreement or natural break. 

 

Interim Bill and Final Bill: What is an Interim Bill?

It is important to understand the difference between an interim bill and final bill. Generally, a final statute bill will be delivered at the end of the retainer; but, solicitors and clients can agree interim statute bills may be served during the retainer, and they are statute bills for the period covered.

A solicitor will often send interim bills to their client during the course of action. For an interim bill to be considered a statute bill, it must be provided for in the terms and conditions within the retainer. 

A Solicitor may deliver a statute bill in four situations:

  1. Once the work is complete.
  2. Termination of the retainer.
  3. At a natural break in litigation (where each interim Bill covers a separate part of the case). 
  4. Where there is an express agreement with the client to deliver interim statutory bills. 

For a bill to be rendered an interim bill, it must be a complete self-contained Bill in regards to the periods it covers and the subject matter. In the case of Slade v Boodie & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 2667, it was held an interim statute bill could relate solely to solicitors’ charges or counsel’s fees or disbursements without having to contain all three elements to the extent that they existed for a particular period. However, the sum claimed must be complete and not subject to any adjustments. 

Where there is a conditional fee agreement, such as a no-win lower fees case, it was unclear from the case law as to whether these cases can ever amount to a statute bill. In the case of Sprey v Rawlinson Butler LLP, the Court considered whether a discounted conditional fee agreement amounted to a statue bill. The Court held the construction of the CFA did not permit the rendering of interim statute bills. Unless fees, success fees and disbursements were read separately, then the right to challenge them arose only at the end of the case. Thus, making them Chamberlain bills and not interim statute bills. 

Masters v Charles Fussell & Co LLP [2021] EWHC B1 (Costs)

In the recent case of Masters v Charles Fussell & Co LLP [2021] EWHC B1 (Costs), the Court considered this issue in further detail:

Case facts:

The Claimant instructed the Defendant in three litigation matters. There were three distinct periods during the retainer – one in 2012, where the Claimant was paying privately, a second in 2013 to 2018 where there was a discounted conditional fee agreement and a third from January 2018 until the contract was terminated, when the Claimant returned to paying privately. 

The Claimant issued proceedings against their Solicitor seeking an assessment of the bills. 

The Court was asked to decide whether these bills amount to interim statute bills or one or more in a series of ‘on account’ bills. 

Looking at the first retainer, Master Rowley had ‘no doubt’ that the firm intended the bills to be interim statue bills, that could be enforced for non-payment. The terms of the interim invoices were an attempt to produce self-contained bills for the relevant period, detailing the activities conducted during that time. This would be assessable under the Solicitors Act. The Court held solicitors must make it clear that the client is receiving an interim statute bill and that there are time limits involved with challenging this. 

On the second retainer, the Judge held the terms of the conditional fee agreement did not allow for interim statute bills. The third retainer also had nothing in the agreement to allow for interim statute bills. 

There was, in fact, no reason why the Chamberlain approach should not apply to this case; however, the last invoice was dated 31st October 2019, and the Claimant commenced proceedings on 29th November 2019. Therefore, proceedings were commenced within a month of the last invoice; then in line with this, the client was entitled to have the invoices assessed. 

 

How Can ARC Costs Assist?

ARC Costs are specialist Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers who can assist with the recovery of or challenging of legal costs. We can assist in preparing Bills of Costsnegotiating costs, preparing Points of Dispute and Points of Reply, and representing you at detailed assessment. Whether you are the receiving party or the paying party, we hold vast experience on both disputing costs and defending the same. 

 

If you require our assistance or would like to discuss your query on costs, please complete the online form. Alternatively, you may call us on 01204 397302 or email us at info@arccosts.co.uk.

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