The Claimant solicitors acted for the Claimant in matrimonial proceedings between November 2013 and September 2018. Following a “long history of protracted, difficult litigation” including a divorce suit, ancillary relief and Family Law Act non-molestation and occupation order applications the Claimant faced total legal costs in the sum of £263,426.11.
In Belsner v Cam Legal Services Ltd, Mr Justice Lavender determined that a solicitor who wishes to rely on having been given informed consent for the purposes of CPR 46.9(2) must not only point to a written agreement which meets the requirements of the rule, but must also show that his client gave informed consent to that agreement insofar as it permitted payment to the solicitor of an amount of costs greater than that which the client could have recovered from another party to the proceedings.
Suing for unpaid fees? In this case The Hon. Mr Justice Butcher considered the rights of the client upon being sued for payment of unpaid fees to challenge the amount of those fees sought by way of non statutory assessment.
In this case, a dispute arose as to the terms of the retainer as between the solicitor and client . It was broadly agreed that at the parties’ initial meeting in December 2017 it had been agreed that Mr Slade would act on Mr Murray’s behalf to the conclusion of his case for a fixed fee of £50,000 plus VAT including all disbursements. Following a PTR in or around May 2018 Mr Murray expressed dissatisfaction with his barrister and told Mr Slade “you had better get this sorted out”. In response, Mr Slade retained another barrister, Mr Moraes, for a fee of £25,000 + Vat. This was as against the previous barrister’s fee of £10,000 + Vat. The parties differed in their evidence as to what happened next.
In this SCCO decision on a preliminary issue before the start of a Solicitors Act assessment Master Rowley found that whilst the interim statute bills rendered to the client by his solicitors throughout the life of the retainer were to all intents and purpose statute in form and content, the retainers (private and then CFA) did not allow them to be rendered.
A solicitor who wishes to rely on having been given informed consent for the purposes of CPR 46.9(2) must not only point to a written agreement which meets the requirements of the rule, but must also show that his client gave informed consent to that agreement insofar as it permitted payment to the solicitor of an amount of costs greater than that which the client could have recovered from another party to the proceedings. For this purpose, the solicitor must show that he made sufficient disclosure to the client.
“It is entirely routine for clients to seek Section 70 Detailed Assessment and for there to be a dispute between the parties as to whether the Bill in question is an interim statute, or interim non-statute, Bill. If the Solicitor prevails in arguing that it is an interim statute Bill and beyond the scope of Detailed Assessment, that is the end of it. However, if the client prevails in arguing that it is an interim non-statute Bill, the usual outcome is for an order that the Solicitor should render a final Bill for those costs, that will enable the same to be assessed as the client wishes.”
Master Gordon-Saker determined in this case that the solicitors’ retainer letter did not entitle them to render interim statute bills to their client as, whilst it entitled them to invoice the client monthly, it did not expressly provide that such invoices would be final bills for the periods that they covered.
This was an appeal from a decision of Master Nagalingam in which he found that a bill rendered by the solicitors to their former client had not been paid and that “special circumstances” existed such that a detailed assessment, pursuant to section 70 of the Solicitors Act 1974, should be carried out.
Master Victoria McCloud (sitting as a Deputy Costs Judge in the SCCO) determined preliminary issues in the course of a detailed assessment proceeding under the Solicitors Act 1974, namely:
whether the entirety of the solicitors’ fees were incurred with the client’s consent in the sum claimed; or, alternatively
if not whether at least the level of success fee was incurred with consent.