I''m currently going through a divorce and my costs for getting to FDA were nearly £39k against an estimate to £5-10k from my solicitor. I have done a huge amount of work to ''save costs'' and, although my husband hasn''t been particularly forthcoming, he hasn''t been as obstructive as I had thought. Anyway, that''s not the point of this post.
I am SO annoyed at my previous solicitor''s charging (yes, I had the good sense to change right after the FDA!) that I am in the process of reporting them to the Legal Ombudsman. However, despite a comprehensive complaint which they have been unable to offer and legitimate defence to, they have not offered any reduction in fees (as I knew they wouldn''t). Now I am investigating having my costs assessed and this is the interesting bit...if your solicitor gave you an estimate and then it increased substantially, you may find it useful to read the judgement of REYNOLDS v STONE ROWE BREWER! There are also a lot of articles written by solicitors about this case as it has really put the frighteners on solicitors in regard to the accuracy of their estimates. Too many solicitors think clients are too stupid or timid to question their charges (and we all want our solicitor to like us in the hope that they''ll do a better job for us) so they get away with unreasonable charges and hope we don''t pull them up on it. Many solicitors don''t know about the REYNOLDS case but may well reconsider how they respond to a complaint if they know their client is aware of the ruling.
There is a real twist in this tale. I have been so angered by the poor legal advice I was given that I ended up doing a huge amount of research which I found really interesting and have decided to re-train as a solicitor! My new solicitor is really inspirational and very encouraging. So, when the door to my marriage closed, the door to a new career opened!
Anyway, for anyone who is interested, I hope that you find the REYNOLDS ruling interesting.
My financials were sorted out between me & my ex, so didn''t need to get court involved, but its my understanding a solicitor was supposed to give you regular cost updates - I guess yours didn''t & £39k must have been an almighty shock!!
I hope with your new found experience you''ll stick around and help/advise others who find themselves where you were
Thanks for posting the link. I would be interested to know how you get on with your complaint and/or getting the costs assessed.
I think many of us have been on the receiving end of escalating costs.
In my case the initial estimate was £3-5k. At FDA it rose to 5-8k to get to Final Hearing. Then a different person at the firm took over.
The costs just kept on going up ... I did get some reduced - there was a clear mistake in one bill (he had crossed out a 2 and written 1 on a fee note; it was charged as 21 units!) and there was also a lot of doubling up of effort when he took over.
However I was left in a position where the bills far exceeded the original estimate ... and they knew very well what my financial position was. New estimates were produced ... and eventually after a bill of almost £20k in total to FDR and an estimate of a further 12-15k, I switched to a different firm.
My total legal bill was some £30k.
I know in part this was because my ex had a legal aid solicitor who was determined to be a rottweiler. He was also determined that he would not settle and that a judge would have to decide the outcome. Letters were being sent from ex''s side at the rate of 3 a day at times! However I am still at a loss to understand exactly how and why the costs got so huge. It is not that work was not done but I do feel that a lot of it was needless.
In the event at FH my ex got pretty much the settlement proposed when I first went to see a solicitor and the same amount he had rejected at FDR. His legal aid bill was some 20k ... and I understand if he had been paying privately this would have been 3x as much). So between us it cost some 50k ... which is a scandalous and shocking waste of money that could have benefited the children.
I complained via the LSC. My settlement was £250. Hmmmmm.
I wish my husband and I could have sorted it out but my husband''s view was that he didn''t need to provide any type of settlement!
You are probably aware of the SRA''s Solicitors'' Costs Information and Client Care Care 1999
6 Updating Costs Information
The solicitor should keep their client properly informed about costs as a matter progresses. In particular the solicitor should :
(b) explain to the client (and confirm in writing) any changed circumstances which will, or which are likely to affect the amount of costs, the degree of risk involved, or the cost-benefit to the client continuing with the matter
(c) inform the client in writing as soon as it appears that a costs estimate or agreed upper limit may or will be exceeded
My solicitor didn''t give me any prior warning until a specific request to do so and by which time their fees had risen from the estimate of £5-10,000 to £25,500! Their excuse was that they provided invoices which advised of increasing costs! Obviously that is NOT the intention of the SRA''s Code of Conduct!
I am putting in a complaint to the Legal Ombudsman (but don''t have much faith) and then look to a full assessment of charges.
Hi ! I commend you for re-training to be a solicitor, and who could blame you - the amounts they charge are extortionate. You will be rich !! Im not entitled to legal aid and have been scared off by solicitors quotes so far. Have been researching as much as I can and just biding time I suppose really. Am now 6 months away for grounds of separation 2 yrs so no point rocking the boat there as ex does not think its unreasonable behaviour to be violent abusive and controlling.
It really annoys me that people automatically say to you ''get a solicitor'' colleagues friends etc. Its not that easy - what do they think were going to pay them with magic beans ? Neither of us have been able to afford a solicitor and cant afford to lose any equity from the house on expensive legal fees, as it is house is now valued less than we bought it due to the market. Some people automatically go to a solicitor, but maybe some people due to finances are taking a step back and thinking with their heads rather than their emotions as, at the end of the day couples are still encouraged to work things out and come to an agreement between each other.
It upsets me that people are in a time of huge crisis in their lives and then not being able to afford the luxury of a solicitor to take the legal problems off their hands whilst they try and keep it together for other day to day things. It becomes another huge weight on their shoulders financially, when its hard enough trying to hold down your job look after children, house etc and deal with marriage breakup whatever circumstances.
Sounds to me like you have grounds for divorce !There was no physical abuse in my marriage but a controlling husband and that was enough for a successful Petition for unreasonable behaviour. Rather surprisingly, that''s the most common grounds for divorce (I would have assumed adultery but there you go).
Just getting the divorce is ''relatively'' inexpensive (£1,000 - £1,500 plus VAT and court costs). If your petition is successful you may may get an order for costs so that your husband has to pay your costs (for the divorce process only. This generally doesn''t apply for financial proceedings so beware!). It''s when finances are involved that the fees really rack up but if you aren''t seeking a financial settlement, it may be worth while thinking about getting a solicitor to help you with this. There are ''do it yourself'' divorces but it takes time and is confusing.
If you decided to go down the solicitor route I would strongly recommend that you do thorough research and only use someone who has been personally recommended by several HAPPY clients! I made the mistake of believing my first solicitor''s PR - how I wish I hadn''t been taken in! However, my new solicitor is great and has restored my faith (she has also been my inspiration to retrain! She didn''t charge me for the 5 hours it took her to review my file when I moved to her - I don''t think there are many like her around though!).
Good luck - if you decide to do it yourself please let me know how you get on!
Solicitors are required to give estimates and they are permitted to revise these as the circumstances of the case changes. It is like asking a builder to build a garden wall - they give you an estimate but when they see that you have a massive garden, they will revise the estimate to take account of the additional work.
With Reynolds v Stone Brewer the solicitor gave an estimate which said something along the lines of "if your case goes to trial I estimate that my costs will be £18k". The estimate was extended twice but the judge found that the initial estimate was a key factor for the client in deciding whether to proceed with the litigation. Once the client had embarked upon proceedings she could not back out of them and had she know that her costs would have actually been £60k+ she would not have made the same decisions.
The judge said that the solicitor did not have enough information to be able to give an estimate to trial and should not have done so. The solicitor had made an error which could not be rectified retrospectively and should be bound by the initial estimate.
That''s not the whole story as the solicitor was allowed £18k + VAT + barrister''s fees which were several thousand.
The case is a warning sign to solicitors about the failure to give adequate thought to their cost estimates rather than a magic bullet to all clients who believe that they can use it to avoid paying the fees that were properly incurred.