Q&As

If a solicitor agrees to charge a fixed fee for a piece of work but then does not carry out all the work which was envisaged in the original engagement letter, is he/she still entitled to charge the full fixed fee or is he only entitled to charge for the work actually carried out?

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Published on LexisPSL on 05/05/2017

The following Dispute Resolution Q&A provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • If a solicitor agrees to charge a fixed fee for a piece of work but then does not carry out all the work which was envisaged in the original engagement letter, is he/she still entitled to charge the full fixed fee or is he only entitled to charge for the work actually carried out?
  • Quantum meruit
  • SRA Principles
  • Costs assessments

If a solicitor agrees to charge a fixed fee for a piece of work but then does not carry out all the work which was envisaged in the original engagement letter, is he/she still entitled to charge the full fixed fee or is he only entitled to charge for the work actually carried out?

Where a solicitor and client have a fixed fee engagement but not all work set out in the engagement is completed, the solicitor’s right to charge fees will depend on the specific terms of the engagement and any other terms of business. For example, the terms of engagement may include an abortive fees clause (ie where the solicitor is entitled to charge certain fees if the client terminates the engagement) or a clause specifying how fees will be calculated where there is partial completion of the engagement.

It will also be important to consider whether or not payment of the fixed fee is dependent on completion of the engagement or not. See the commentary in: Termination of retainer: Butterworths Costs Service [81] regarding the case of Rosenblatt (A Firm) v Man Oil Group SA. In that case, the High Court considered a dispute about a law firm’s retainer where the payment of a fixed fee was subject to certain assumptions that:

  1. the transaction would proceed as anticipated without additional complications

  2. no work

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