Points Of Dispute In Solicitor And Client Assessments: The Court Of Appeal Speaks

AINSWORTH V STEWARTS LAW LLP

The Court of Appeal has upheld the decision of both Master Gordon-Saker (at first instance) and HHJ Klein (on appeal) which we reported last year that the former client’s Points of Dispute on a Solicitors Act assessment between himself and his former solicitors were insufficiently particularised as to afford the solicitors an opportunity to know the case against them and meaningfully respond in advance of the assessment hearing. On the first appeal, HHJ Klein said:


“the claimant would have had to identify each item objected to, state why and then in respect of each the defendant would have had to go into the file and consider the claimant’s instructions on the point.  Whether consent was given to incur the item, whether the correct fee earner was involved and whether the time claimed was reasonable.”


Upholding this decision on a second appeal, Lady Justice Asplin held that:

“It seems to me quite clear, that although CPR r46.9 and r46.10 apply in relation solicitor and own client assessments, it is necessary to look to CPR Part 47 for assistance in relation to the form which points of dispute should take… points of dispute should be short and to the point and, therefore, focussed. Furthermore, sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) leave no doubt about the way in which the draftsman should proceed. General points and matters of principle which require consideration before individual items in the bill or bills are addressed, should be identified, and then specific points should be made “stating concisely the nature and grounds of dispute.”

AINSWORTH V STEWARTS LAW LLP [2020] EWCA CIV 178