Q&As

Can a solicitor who takes action against a former client to recover unpaid fees, claim their costs of the recovery proceedings if they act in person? If so, what would be the measure of costs allowed (say standard hourly rates)?

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Produced in partnership with Alex Bagnall of Total Legal Solutions
Published on LexisPSL on 06/08/2019

The following Dispute Resolution Q&A produced in partnership with Alex Bagnall of Total Legal Solutions provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Can a solicitor who takes action against a former client to recover unpaid fees, claim their costs of the recovery proceedings if they act in person? If so, what would be the measure of costs allowed (say standard hourly rates)?
  • A firm of solicitors represents itself
  • A firm of solicitors instructs an individual solicitor
  • A sole practitioner conducts the litigation as an individual

Can a solicitor who takes action against a former client to recover unpaid fees, claim their costs of the recovery proceedings if they act in person? If so, what would be the measure of costs allowed (say standard hourly rates)?

There are three different scenarios in which this question may arise, being:

  1. where a firm of solicitors recovers the debt through litigation without instructing external solicitors

  2. where a firm of solicitors instructs one of its members, partners or directors personally to recover the debt through litigation, or

  3. where a sole practitioner seeks to recover the debt but does not instruct their firm to act in the proceedings

Taking each in turn:

A firm of solicitors represents itself

It is commonplace for firms of solicitors to effectively instruct themselves to recover debts (or, indeed, to act in any other type of litigation in which the firm might be involved).

In these circumstances, the principle in Re Eastwood would apply. Work done by lawyers who are employees of a litigant is exempt from the indemnity principle.

It is therefore not necessary to show that there is a contract of retainer in place between the solicitors as a ‘client’ and the solicitors as lawyers. Nor is it necessary for the solicitors to calculate a notional hourly ‘cost’ for conducting the litigation.

The court will allow whatever rate is considered reasonable and proportionate in the

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