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Resolving complaints about solicitors

Examples of Bill reduction

Example 1

Mr A bought a house and received a bill for Ј400 plus VAT. Two years later he found out that the solicitor hadn't registered his ownership of the property with the Land Registry, or paid stamp duty.

If Mr A registered his ownership and paid the stamp duty himself, we would reduce the solicitors bill by a percentage that takes account of the time and effort he had spent.

If the solicitors did the work, Mr A would be getting the work he had paid for so we would not reduce the bill. However we would consider compensation for his shock at finding out that this work hadn't been done.

If Mr A instructed new solicitors to do the necessary work, we would not reduce the original solicitor's bill, but we would tell them to pay the new solicitor's costs.

Example 2

Mr B instructed a firm of solicitors to act for him in a court case. Over three years the solicitor dealing with Mr B's case changed four times. He won his case in the end, but the changes of solicitor meant that each new solicitor had to spend time reading the file, and Mr B had to go to meetings to go over old information. Mr B was charged for all the work done by the firm.

Mr B shouldn't have been charged for the work that had already been done by the previous solicitor. We would estimate how much time was wasted by the changes of solicitor and reduce the bill by this amount.

Example 3

Mr D instructed the solicitors to deal with his divorce, financial matters and arrangements for his children. He first received a detailed estimate of the solicitor's costs and one more general estimate two months later. The general estimate did not contain details of costs for phone calls and letters, as the solicitor expected Mr D to work these costs out for himself.

The solicitor didn't tell Mr D the likely outcome of his case, or the risk that he might end up paying more in costs than he might recover from his wife. The solicitor suggested that, as Mr D contacted them frequently, he should have known that this would be increasing his costs.

We decided that it was not reasonable to expect Mr D to work out his own costs. We told the solicitors to keep the amount they had already been paid and to write off the rest (about Ј6400).

We also awarded Mr D Ј1000 compensation for the serious distress and inconvenience caused by the way the costs estimates and advice were dealt with.

Example 4

Mrs E was selling her house and the solicitor estimated that the cost would be Ј500 plus VAT. They said that if any difficulties arose, they might have to charge more.

At the end of the sale, the solicitor charged Ј750 plus VAT and said that the sale had been more complex than expected.

The solicitor had never told Mrs E that the case had become more complex. They did not warn her that they would have to charge more than their estimate and how much the extra work might cost.

We limited the solicitor's costs to the original estimate of Ј500 plus VAT.

We also awarded Mrs E Ј200 for her distress and inconvenience at receiving a bill that was higher than she had expected.