Solicitor/Client Disputes

Building Bridges

It is an unfortunate fact of life that solicitors and their clients sometimes fall out. The usual reason is over fees, often where there is an argument about whether an estimate has been exceeded. If the dispute cannot be resolved, subject to time limits, the client can apply to the court under the Solicitors Act 1974 to have the fees assessed by the court to ensure that they are fair and reasonable.

That process can be time consuming, entrenched and invariably expensive, with no certain winner at the end of the day. The most unfortunate example of this type of dispute is where the solicitor and client have been on the same side for years, fought and won a complex case, and then fallen out over fees.

Feelings on both sides can run high with the solicitors believing that the fees have been deserved and hard won on their part, whilst the client feels that there has been overcharging and will only pay what is considered to be a fair price. If proceedings follow under the Act, it is rare for either party to come away in the belief that they have “won”.

Often the bill will be reduced but with client ordered to pay the costs which may be more than the reduction, so everyone loses. Add to that the strong feelings on both sides and the outcome is a disaster all round.

That is where CADR can assist. CADR can provide a qualified mediator with extensive costs experience who can bring the parties together and take the sting out of the dispute by reaching a solution which, although not ideal, is one that both parties can live with.

Even in the most intractable of solicitor and client disputes, mediation can achieve remarkable results and parties who have been at loggerheads are themselves surprised how a CADR mediator can resolve their differences within hours, rather than the days, months and even years that a Solicitors Act case can last.

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