Solicitor Costs - Care and Conduct

An uplift for care and conduct goes back to a time when solicitors' costs were worked out on an A + B formula. A related to the cost per hour based on reasonable overhead expenses and B represented a percentage increase for "imponderables" and costs that could not be directly calculated. The B element was usually referred to as care and conduct.

Eventually someone worked out that solicitors were supposed to provide all clients cases with care and conduct, which should not be based around how much they were being paid. They also figured that clients deserved certainty as to the hourly rate that was to be applied.

50% was the standard increase for care and conduct. When the Guideline Rates for contentious work were calculated the rate was a composite rate including this element. Care and conduct was dead in respect of litigation, or was it?

We have recently come across solicitors who are still incorporating a 'care and conduct' element into their retainer. They set their hourly rate based around the composite rate then add 50% on top. How would you feel if a mandatory service charge of 50% was automatically added whenever you ate in a restaurant without it being made clear to you before you ordered? Even worse, often the solicitor is entitled to determine how much the increase should be.

The matter was considered by the Court of Appeal in the case of Bilkus v Stockler Brunton (a Firm) [2010] EWCA 101. They ruled that work in respect of contentious business included work carried out before proceedings were begun. Where the work was contentious no uplift for care and conduct could be claimed, pursuant to section 60(4) of the Solicitors Act 1974.

You employ solicitors to advise you. The one thing they will probably never advise you on is their retainer. Your lawyer is supposed to provide clear guidance on the funding options and how your legal charges will be calculated before you enter into an agreement with them. Once you have entered into an agreement then even if you ask them they have a potential conflict of interest.

If you want clear, simple advice on a retainer you are proposing to enter into or how to deal with a bill you have received then call us or e-mail us with your contact details and brief details of the issue. We will respond as soon as we can and if it goes no further there is no charge.