I am going through divorce, long story short, I applied through this solicitor she charged me fixed fee for Divorce case, She applied the petition without asking me 2 years mutual separation date etc. and Informed me later after asking about update that she has applied. I asked her copy of petition and she said that she don't have one and online portal is not letting her download it. So basically I don't know what info she has written in my petition.
Later She informed me that Other party is ready for voluntary disclosure and we are moving to Financial disclose so I will have to pay fixed fee for that. I enquired and discussed the fee for Financial disclosure and asked her time to think.
As I was not happy with her behaviour about filing petition without my knowledge, I decided to change solicitor. Upon asking for settle the bill. She sent me big invoice with all random invoice items even though I have paid in full for divorce case and petition is not stamped yet.
This invoice has items from
- divorce case emails and telephone.which I have already paid in full and petition is not stamped yet.
- Items related to fee discussion for Financial disclosure
- Items for emails and calls which I never received - Items communicating with my husband's solicitor after stopping my instruction
- Wrong dated items etc
I asked her itemised bill, she intimidated me to pay asap otherwise she will sue me.
I replied not to pay and until full details about invoice, She again re-written whole invoice with random items but same amount and sent me.
I have asked her firm complaint procedure before going forward for formal complaint procedure with SRA and Legal Ombudsman. but there is no reply from her.
You have had a poor service here and you are following the correct procedure.
The first thing to do is check that your communications specifically refer to a complaint about service. The complaints procedure should be set out in the initial letter you received (referred to as the client care letter or retainer letter).
If in doubt specify that you wish your concerns to be treated as a complaint and that in the absence of a response you will have no alternative to escalate the matter to the Legal Ombudsman.
They should acknowledge your complaint within a short period of time (7 days from memory) and deal with your complaint within a few weeks at most.
Certainly work after you have terminated the retainer should not be charged and work within a fixed fee that you have already paid cannot be charged again.
If you have not agreed a fee for the finances and you have not given instructions to commence work on the finances there can be no charge.
As for suing you, if there is a complaint outstanding at the point that they commence proceedings against you, that will cause them a lot of difficulty both with the court and the Ombudsman. The proceedings against you would be based upon unpaid fees but from your post it sounds as though you have paid them and there is no more to pay. That would also cause some difficulty.
Unfortunately there are still solicitors around that take advantage of clients and 9 times out of 10 they will get away with it as clients are very often in a vulnerable position. Those are the scourge of the profession and given everyone else a bad name.
Thank you soo much Charles for your quick reply, so I will email her mentioning that "ou wish your concerns to be treated as a complaint and that in the absence of a response you will have no alternative to escalate the matter to the Legal Ombudsman." and give her 1 week time to respond.
Invoice amount is £1650 roughly.
I will update here if there is any update, if she choose not to respond or settle the complaint then I will have to complain to Legal Ombudsman.
Do they charge anything for complaint or for further process?
My old solicitor replied today, saying that she was on holiday so couldn't respond. She sent again same rationals about my complaint in formal way and in the end she mentioned
"You are free to make any complaint you see fit to the Legal Ombudsman and I will respond accordingly. In the meantime, I put you on notice that I will be issuing court proceedings to recover my fees. All additional court costs and interest will be charged to you. These are two separate matters."
Please suggest me what next step I should take?
You are meant to go through the internal complaints process first before referring the matter to the Legal Ombudsman.
However, in the absence of any acknowledgement of a complaint you could now go to the Ombudsman although you may be told to go through the complaints procedure first.
As far as issuing proceedings for debt recovery, from what you have said it sounds as though you have a genuine challenge to fees to were not incurred on your instruction which is something you might want to mention to the Ombudsman if that is the path you choose.
I contacted Ombudsman, They suggested to pay invoice and when they will look into the case and find their fault then money can be recovered from them. this is to reduce hassle if solicitor do any legal proceedings against me.(this process might take 10-12 months altogether).
But I mentioned them, I have paid and don't have extra money to pay solicitor again so they said I can still complain without paying invoice.
but before that I will have to confirm with solicitor if it is their final response on the matter. but she still can take legal action against me to recover money.
My question how can I safeguard myself if she chooses to take legal action?