5 Things to know about instructing lawyers:

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We give you some tips to take control of your legal spend on your dispute

So let’s assume your business gets into a bit of a pickle and you end up in a dispute with another business. You tried everything but circumstances led you to have to take matters further and now you need to engage your lawyer to act on your behalf.

Do you feel cornered, not only by your opponent, but also by your own legal team, charging away like a wounded buffalo? Well, in this article, we give you some tips and knowledge that you might not be aware of to take back control of your legal spend and the advice you get going forward.

Tip 1: Client Costs Care

The first thing every client should be aware of is that the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (the SRA and the regulating authority in the UK) takes overcharging very seriously in the legal profession. Law firms don’t have to charge a prescribed rate but must advertise certain cost information on their websites for specific activities such as collection of debts for individuals under £100,000. Many law firms, not wanting to expose their charges to the public, simply choose not to do this type of work and therefore, for example, they won’t collect on a bill for you unless its over the £100,000 mark.

Tip 2: How Different Lawyers are Charged

The second thing clients should be aware of is law firms will include a range of fees for differing seniority of lawyers at the firm and, most often, it will not be up to the client to decide which lawyer does what.

Quite often, as a client, you will be billed for a trainee or very junior lawyer doing your work with the senior lawyer simply overseeing what that junior or trainee does.

So you might ask the obvious question why can’t I have the most senior person working on my matter? Well the answer is that the juniors need something to do and the more complex the matter the more senior the advisor, but this isn’t always the case. As a client you should always be given the choice as to who you want to work on your matter and why a certain lawyer is working on it should be explained.

Tip 3: Cost Benefit Analysis 

The UK SRA Code of Conduct (2011) requires the solicitor to discuss with you the potential outcomes and whether going forward is likely to be a justifiable expense as well as the likelihood of having to pay someone else’s legal costs. This is not specifically stated in the regulations, but should still be done and kept under review.

Tip 4: Economic Litigation 

The SRA Code also suggests that a solicitor should maximise costs recovery and minimise costs shortfall by conducting litigation economically and proportionately. 

Tip 5: Giving you a costs strategy

You should not be left in the dark when it comes to understanding whether your opponent will be able to pay for the matter.

A solicitor should conduct searches of the opponent to check that they can pay the debt if you win (most importantly in uncertain times like during the current COVID-19 pandemic where solvency is a major concern).

If they are uncertain of this eventuality, they should advise you of such and perhaps seek security for costs on your behalf or try and resolve the claim early.

In all circumstances, a solicitor should keep you constantly aware of your costs and give you control over key decisions. Which is only fair as, after all, it’s your money that’s on the line.

Many clients feel in the dark about legal costs and the industry is changing rapidly with many firms being forced to offer fixed price legal fees and being forced to justify their high hourly rates they charge.

John Stocker is a specialist construction, engineering and major projects lawyer with 18 years of experience advising in the field and who speaks regularly at conferences and seminars and has published several articles.

John is admitted to practice in England and Wales (2003) and in the High Court of South Africa (2002).

The information in this article is not to be taken as legal advice and is for information purposes only. Detailed legal advice should be taken on all matters before relying on any statements made herein.

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