“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.”
When does the six year limitation period begin to run for the purpose of recovering unpaid fees?
Applying principles established by the Court of Appeal in the nineteenth century case of Coburn v Colledge  1 QB 702 Master Leonard found that the contract of retainer between the solicitor and his client had ended in April 2013 when the solicitor’s partnership was converted to a limited company and he ceased to practice in his own name.
Consequently, it was determined that, despite the final bill not having been rendered until January 2014, any right to take legal action to recover payment for his legal services had been statute barred since the beginning of April 2019.
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 to know the case against them and meaningfully respond in advance of the assessment hearing.
This was an appeal from a decision of Master Gordon-Saker made in the course of detailed assessment proceedings brought under s70 Solicitors Act 1974. The Master had summarily dismissed the claimant’s points of dispute on work done on documents, on grounds that they did not further the overriding objective. Specifically, the points of dispute were not, “to the point”. They did not summarise all of the particular objections to the specific points which the claimant wished to advance at the hearing so that the court and the defendant knew or knew sufficiently the case the defendant had to meet.