Solicitors can charge whatever they like and it is up to clients to negotiate and agree these rates before instructing them. However, if for whatever reason their costs end up being assessed by the court, there are guideline rates which the court will apply to solicitors’ and other professionals rates.
What Are The Different Grades Of Fee Earners?
Since 2001 there have been four grades of fee earners namely:
A. Solicitors of 8 or more years litigation experience
B. Solicitors and Fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives, with over 4 years post-qualification experience
C. Other solicitors, legal executives and fee earners of equivalent experience
D. Trainee solicitors and fee earners of equivalent experience
At each grade there is a different guideline rate and these rates change according to the area the solicitor is based, called national bands or groups.
The rates were originally issued every 2 years, but moved to an annual review from 2007 onwards. Following the review of civil costs by Lord Justice Jackson, the process was to be looked at again, but seems to have fallen through the cracks. As a result the rates have remain frozen since 1 April 2010.
The review is effected by the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs issuing recommended guideline hourly rates as a broad approximation starting point for summary assessment of solicitor's costs. The Court is allowed to vary from these rates, but you would normally have to show that the work was out of the ordinary and justified a higher rate.
The rates are also regarded on detailed assessments, but are less persuasive. It is much more common for higher rates to be allowed on a detailed assessment when the Judge has been able to consider the whole file.