Challenging Legal Charges

Unfortunately how legal costs are calculated can often be mystifying, even when the method of calculation has been specified in the retainer agreement. If you have received a bill from your solicitor which you think is unreasonable, or you have to pay the costs of the other side, either by agreement or by a court order, and believe their costs are not reasonable, the only way to challenge them is by applying to the court for a detailed assessment of the costs. The process is slightly different depending on whether you are challenging your own solicitor’s costs or challenging the costs of the other side.

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How To Challenge Legal Costs

What's Your First Step?

The first action is always to try and agree the costs between you, as applying for detailed assessment carries additional costs. A detailed assessment application fee must be paid initially and then a court fee for the detailed assessment is payable, which is calculated according to the size of the bill being challenged. The lowest cost is presently £335 for costs under £15,000. If you are thinking of applying for detailed assessment, it would be wise to speak to a specialist costs solicitor like Routh Clarke so we can give you some free initial advice on the options available to you.

Challenging Your Solicitor's Bill

For all bills payable to your own solicitor, you can ask the court to assess the amount payable. With non-contentious agreements (where proceedings have not begun before the court or an arbitrator), the court can set the agreement aside if it is found to be unfair or unreasonable. With contentious agreements (where proceedings have begun), the court can assess the proper amount payable. The process of applying for detailed assessment is fairly simple, but understanding how to write a “Points of Dispute” for the detailed bill which your solicitor will produce, is much more complex and is usually best done by a costs expert like Routh Clarke. For examples of bad practice, visit our Solicitor bad practice pages and this may help you to understand the ways in which a solicitor’s charges may not be entirely what they seem.

Challenging Costs Owed To The Other SIde

Costs payable to an opponent will either be under a court order or by agreement. The only way these can be dealt with, if not agreed, is by detailed assessment by the court. Where you have a solicitor acting for you, they would normally deal with this, but it would be wise to check.

Risk of Detailed Assessment

The biggest risk of undertaking detailed assessment is cost. If you “lose” and the judge considers the costs are reasonable or does not reduce them by more than 20%, you could be liable for the court fee, the other side’s costs of the detailed assessment, your own costs of the detailed assessment, plus the full or slightly reduced cost of the original bill. All-in-all quite a sizeable sum of money. That’s why it’s always wise to speak to a specialist costs solicitor before you begin detailed assessment proceedings.

Call us on 01935 823883 for help with challenging your legal costs