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 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.
“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.”
The High Court has affirmed that in order to comply with the strict requirements of the Solicitors Act 1974 a statute bill must be a complete and self-contained bill for costs including all disbursements incurred during the period covered.