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Why might you be overcharged by your solicitor?

• You would expect to be able to trust your solicitor not to overcharge you in the first place. The first problem is that lawyers love to make everything complicated. The rules concerning what a solicitor can and cannot charge for are no exception. They are so complex that there are specialist judges who spend all day just dealing with disputes over whether legal fees are reasonable. There are lengthy legal text books covering nothing other than the law concerning legal fees and specialist conferences where the finer points of law in this area are discussed. However, the majority of solicitors are not specialists in this area and often have little, if any, training in it. The simple truth is that some solicitors overcharge because they do not realise what they are properly allowed to charge for. You need an expert on your side to make sure you have only been charged in accordance with the rules. CLF Law are the experts to help.

• Much of the work done by solicitors is charged on an hourly rate basis. The more hours spent, the more the solicitor charges. This has sometimes been called the “plodders’ charter”. It rewards the solicitor who is slow at their job more than it rewards the efficient solicitor. The solicitor who takes one hour to read a document that an efficient solicitor would take 30 minutes to read will charge twice as much. Is that fair? No. Fortunately, you should only be expected to pay for a reasonable amount of time for the work done and no more. The problem for the average member of the public is that they have no way of knowing whether the time claimed is reasonable for that type of work. Again, you need an expert to help you. CLF Law are those experts.

• You may be overcharged, not because of the work your solicitor has done, but because of additional costs you are billed for. For example, solicitors will often use barristers to assist with cases and advice them on more complex points of law. That will often be appropriate and may be cheaper than the solicitor undertaking the same work themselves. Unfortunately, some solicitors will run off to seek a barrister’s advice at every stage in your case. Further costs are added to your bill each time this happens. If you are paying high hourly rates to a specialist solicitor, they should be expected to know the basics, at the very least, without needing further help from a barrister. Again, you need an expert to tell you whether the additional costs being claimed are reasonable. CLF Law is here for you.

• Your solicitor should have given you a clear indication at the outset of your case what the likely fees might be and updated you on a regular basis as the case progressed. There should be no nasty shocks at the end of a case. Unfortunately, solicitors are often very bad at estimating how much work they will need to do. The figure they give is often far too low. Secondly, many solicitors are not very good at keeping clients up to date with the costs as the case goes on. Although there may be many reasons why the overall costs incurred are more than initially expected, sometimes the initial figure given by the solicitor was simply unrealistically low. The fact a final bill is higher than estimated may be evidence that you have been overcharged.

• The vast majority of solicitors are honest and hard working. Unfortunately, like all professions, there is the occasional “bad apple”. A small number of solicitors will deliberately and knowingly submit inflated claims for costs. CLF Law know how to spot the unscrupulous ones.