Who Is Responsible For Paying A Solicitor's Costs?

The answer to this from the outset seems quite simple, as the overarching principle is that the client is responsible for their solicitor’s costs in accordance with their contract or retainer. This will generally always be the case, whether you win or lose your case (unless you are working under a Conditional Fee Agreement).

However……..as with all things to do with the Law, things are not always as simple as they seem! We have created a reasonably simplistic flow chart to show who is responsible for solicitor case costs in certain situations and have also tried to explain it in plain English below.

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Solicitors Case Costs

What Happens If You WIn Your Case?

If you win your case, either by settling the case before you go to court or winning your case at court, you may be able to gain some or all of your solicitor’s costs from the losing side. This will be either via agreement with the other side, before going to court, or a Costs Order made by a judge if you end up in court.

Case Settles Before Court

The responsibility for costs should also be agreed at this point and the specific monetary amount included in the final agreement.

Case Goes To Court

Once it is known who has won the case, the Judge will assess how much of the costs will need to be paid and by whom. This seems quite straight forward, but can sometimes be very complex. It is possible to be the “winning party” and still be responsible for some of the “losing party’s” costs, or even not have your costs paid at all. In their assessment of the costs, if the judge thinks the “winning party’s conduct has been unreasonable at any time, they can order for the losing party’s costs, of that part of the case, to be paid by the winning party. In extreme circumstances, for example, where the winning party has perhaps refused to consider mediation, they might order the winning party to pay their own costs and even some of the losing party’s. There are no hard and fast rules and a judge is able to use their reasonable discretion.

What If The Other Side Don't Pay All The Costs?

A solicitor is entitled to charge the client for any shortfall between what the other side have to pay and what the client has to pay, as long as it says so in their contract. In this instance it’s vital to look at the reasons for the shortfall and who caused them. If it’s the solicitor at fault, there may be some room to negotiate the shortfall down. However, if it was caused by the client, the costs will undoubtedly need to be paid. If you think your solicitor has caused you to have a shortfall in costs contact Routh Clarke now so we can help you challenge their costs.

What If The Other Side Don't Pay Any Of The Costs?

Cost Order Not Requested

It has been known for solicitors or barristers to forget to ask for a cost order to be made and this can have serious repercussions for a client, as they will have to bear the cost of the case themselves. In this instance you would need to speak to Routh Clarke as soon as possible, as there would be a potential professional negligence case.

The Other Side Do Not Pay

This is unfortunately a too common occurrence. We have seen far too many cases where a Costs Order is given and the other side do not pay it, usually because they have either made themselves bankrupt or closed down their company. Builders are the most frequent offenders of this. The bad news for the client is their solicitor is still entitled to be paid. The legal profession often refer to the "man of straw" who has no money and should never be sued for financial gain. Solicitors are supposed to perform a costs/benefit analysis both at the start and during a case, where they consider how much you are likely to have to spend compared to the value of what you are pursuing. They should also be considering the prospects of recovering that from the other side should you win.

If you would like to understand in even more detail certain aspects of this area of solicitors costs, please explore the links below: