“…in my view the Judge was entitled to find that the Respondent had neither terminated the Conditional Fee Agreement nor done what amounted to a repudiatory breach of that agreement. Nor do I agree with the Appellant that the correspondence showed an irretrievable breakdown in the necessary relationship of trust and confidence. In modern times, solicitors have to accept that complaints (whether of poor service or as to fees) go with the territory of professional practice.”
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.
The appellants in this case are former clients of the respondent firm of solicitors. They alleged that in the course of a contentious probate dispute concerning the will and estate of their late father, an oral agreement had been reached to cap their legal costs to those set out in their Precedent H costs budget. At first instance Master Whalan found that there had been no such agreement. This was upheld on appeal by Mr Justice Stewart. The decision provides a useful round up and examination of the law and principles related to both an appellate court’s approach to findings of fact and contractual interpretation.