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Legal Charges - What to Expect

You are entitled to be kept informed and updated about the cost of legal services provided to you. Information about your legal bill must be written in language that you as a client can understand. As a client of a solicitor, you are legally entitled to clear written information about the costs of the legal services you are receiving.

Here we focus on the rules as they apply to solicitors because they deal directly with clients. However, barristers are obliged to keep solicitors updated on legal costs.

Upfront Costs Notice

Normally, when you first engage the services of a solicitor you will have what is called a consultation meeting. This session may be free of charge, or you may be charged for it. After this consultation, if you wish to proceed further, the solicitor will write to you setting out details of the legal services to be provided and the likely costs of the services.

This information is called a Costs Notice or Notice of Costs. Some solicitors might include a Costs Notice in a document called a Letter of Engagement or a Confirmation of Instructions.


What a Costs Notice Must Contain

The Costs Notice you receive must include a break-down of the charges for the legal services to be provided under the following clear headings:
  • Legal costs to date - which could relate to time already spent working on the matter.
  • Fixed costs which will certainly be included in your final bill - for example, certain court fees that are a fixed amount.
  • Likely costs that the solicitor thinks will be incurred in dealing with your case - including barristers' fees or phone and postal charges.
  • The VAT amount to be charged;
  • The basis for the costs - i.e. how they were or are to be calculated.

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