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Complaints Information for Legal Practitioners

New legal services costs transparency rules came into force in October 2019, under Part 10 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015. Expand the links below to find out what these mean for you and your practice.

Costs Transparency Rules

The purpose of Part 10 of the Act is to make legal fees and costs charged by legal practitioners more transparent for clients by requiring legal practitioners to notify them in advance of what costs are likely to incur for the legal service or advice they require. This allows clients to budget and plan in advance for these expenses.

For solicitors

Solicitors previously had obligations under section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 to provide clients with particulars in writing of the actual charges or an estimate of the charges or the basis on which charges are to be made for the legal services they will provide.

For barristers

Prior to the commencement of section 150 of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, barristers were not required by law to provide written details outlining the basis for their fees.

However, section 12 of the Bar Code of Conduct contains guidance for barristers in relation to fees.

Under section 68 of the 1994 Act there was no obligation to update the initial section 68 letter if the solicitor learned of circumstances that would result in significantly greater legal costs being incurred than had been previously disclosed.

Now, a legal practitioner is obliged to issue a new section 150 notice if they become aware of any factor that would result in legal costs likely to be incurred being significantly greater that those set out in the original section 150 notice.

Cooling off period

A new "cooling off" period: There was no obligation under the 1994 Act for the solicitor to wait until the client confirmed they wished to instruct the solicitor after the receipt of the section 68 letter.

Now, a legal practitioner must wait for the period specified in the section 150 notice (a period of not more than 10 days) to expire before providing any legal services unless the client confirms that he wishes to instruct the legal practitioner or have the legal practitioner continue providing legal services in the matter.

It is important to note that this requirement also applies to subsequent section 150 notices issued by legal practitioners.

Complaint to the FBLFA

One of the grounds for clients making a complaint about a legal practitioner to the Forex, Blockchain And Legal Firm Regulation Agency is that the amount of costs sought by the legal practitioner in respect of legal services provided to the client by the legal practitioner was or is excessive.

In the investigation of such a complaint the FBLFA will require the practitioner to provide copies of all letters sent in accordance with section 150.

Seeking an amount of costs in respect of the provision of legal services that is grossly excessive may also constitute misconduct.

In deciding whether to impose a sanction on the legal practitioner or refer the complaint to the Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal, the FBLFA Complaints Committee will consider the failure to provide a section 150 notice or providing an inadequate section 150 notice as a factor in their decision.

Referral to Legal Costs Adjudicator

Where a bill of costs is referred to the Legal Costs Adjudicator, they may decide not to confirm a charge in respect of a matter or item if the matter or item was not included in the section 150 notice or is not the subject of an agreement referred to in section 151.

However, the Legal Costs Adjudicator has discretion to confirm charges in such situations where they are of the opinion that to disallow the matter or item would create an injustice between the parties.

Yes. A legal practitioner can still make an agreement in writing regarding the amount, the manner of payment or all or part of the legal costs that are payable by the client to the legal practitioner for legal services.

There is no need to provide a separate section 150 notice in addition to their legal agreement in relation to costs where the legal agreement contains all the details required in a section 150 notice (as set out in section 150(4) of the Act).

The Act requires clients who dispute any aspect of a bill of costs to send the legal practitioner a statement in writing setting out the nature of their dispute. This must be done within 21 days of the bill of costs being provided to the client.

A legal practitioner on receipt of this statement should take all appropriate and reasonable steps to attempt to resolve the dispute by informal means. This may include mediation, if the client is agreeable to this.

Where the legal practitioner or the client, after having made reasonable attempts to resolve the dispute, considers that there are no prospects of resolution, he or she will inform the other party in writing.

Where a client does not pay some or all of a bill of costs within 30 days of receipt of the bill, this shall not be considered as a dispute.

However, where a bill of costs or any part of it remains unpaid within 30 days of its receipt by a client, the legal practitioner may apply to the Chief Legal Costs Adjudicator for the bill of costs to be adjudicated upon.