Solicitors’ fees can generate a lot of anger and frustration for people trying to understand how legal fees are calculated.
Section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act of 1994 sets out how solicitors are permitted to charge for services provided to their clients.
S. 68 compels the solicitor to let the client know, in writing,
- what are the actual charges he intends charging the client or
- an estimate of the charges where the solicitor feels that it is not possible to calculate the actual charges or
- the basis on which charges are to be made.
When the solicitor takes instructions from his client he is obliged to provide the information set out above in writing.
If the matter is a contentious one, then the solicitor is obliged to let his client know the circumstances in which the client may have to discharge the costs of the other party in the proceedings.
S. 68 also stipulates that a solicitor cannot charge a percentage of any damages or money received by the client with one exception-debt collection where the solicitor can charge on a percentage basis.
Generally a solicitor cannot make any deductions from any moneys received on behalf of his client, unless he has an agreement in writing with the client to do so.
This might occur to allow the solicitor to get a payment on account for example in circumstances where he has provided significant legal services and incurred outlays over what sometimes can be a long period of time.
Once the proceedings have concluded a solicitor must let the client have a bill of costs in writing which sets out the legal services provided, the amount of money recovered by way of damages or otherwise and an account of fees and outlays expended on behalf of the client.
If you as a client are unhappy with the bill you receive in respect of solicitors fees you are free to have the matter set down for taxation (this is a process where a Taxing Master will take a look at the bill of costs and decide on it’s fairness).
“Taxation” in this legal context had nothing to do with what most people think of as taxation-it is the legal term for assessing the bill of costs in terms of fairness and not being excessive.
You as a client also have the opportunity under section 9 of the Solicitors Amendment act 1994 to make a complaint to the Law Society of Ireland. The Law Society can then impose various sanctions if the complaint is upheld such as ordering a refund.
No Win No Fee Solicitors
A ‘no win no fee’ (also referred to as ‘no foal no fee’) solicitor will take on your case on the basis that if your case is unsuccessful, the solicitor will not charge you a fee for his services.
However, bear in mind that you will almost certainly be liable for the costs of the other party in the case.
If your litigation is successful, then your ‘no win no fee’ solicitor will be due his full solicitors fees.
But the good news is that most litigation cases are decided on a ‘winner takes all’ basis which means that the other side will almost certainly be ordered to pay all of your costs, expenses and outlays.
However if there is a deficiency between the costs you have incurred and the costs order made by the Court and you are out of pocket, you will be liable for these.
No win no fee cases are very common in personal injuries actions and legal proceedings for medical negligence. You can obtain a no win no fee arrangement in other types of cases also such as employment claims and general litigation.
However, the Solicitors (Advertising) Regulations 2002 restrict how solicitors can advertise, particularly in relation to personal injuries claims.
So, while it is perfectly acceptable for solicitors to provide legal services in contentious business (such as personal injuries, medical negligence, etc) in Ireland, solicitors are not permitted to advertise that fact.
Solicitors’ fees are calculated taking into account a number of factors including
- The complexity or urgency of the matter
- The skill, labour, specialised knowledge and responsibility involved
- The difficulty or novelty of the issues
- The amount of value of any transaction
- Time spent on the file
- Which Court your case is pursued in.
For this reason, a solicitor cannot always give you an exact figure as to his legal fees at the outset.
Section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act, 1994 sets out how solicitors are permitted to charge for their services.
Prior to acting for a client, a solicitor is obliged to let you know in writing either
- What his legal fees will be or
- An estimate of what his charges will be where he/she is unable to calculate exactly the actual charges or
- The basis on which he/she will be charging you.
Why would a solicitor offer to act on a no win no fee basis?
Quite frankly, if he does not, perfectly good, reasonable, and just claims will not be pursued because the person who has been wronged simply cannot afford to pay up front for outlays, costs, solicitors’ time, necessary medical reports, professional reports, stamping fees, etc.
No foal no fee arrangements are common in medical negligence and persona injuries cases because some of these cases can be incredibly complex and continue for quite some time. If the plaintiff was funding this on a time/costs incurred basis, he/she would soon throw in the towel.
And with the insurance companies involved on the other side and who have the time and resources to outwait and outspend you, the ordinary citizen is facing a serious imbalance of resources.
And perhaps never take the case to begin with which would ensure a wrong suffered would go unpunished.
But the notion of solicitors working for nothing is, to put it mildly, fanciful.
For this reason, any solicitor willing to take on a case on a no win no fee basis will firstly look at the case very carefully and assess the likelihood of a successful claim. To do this he/she should meet you and go through the circumstances of your case very thoroughly.
He/she may also obtain an opinion from counsel (a barrister).
Then, and only then, will she decide whether to act for you or not.
Injuries Board Claims
If your claim is processed successfully through the Injuries Board and you are satisfied with the award made, then your solicitor’s fees will have to be discharged out of the award as the Injuries Board, unlike a Court, will not award legal costs.
However, they may make a small contribution towards your legal fees. The Injuries Board and/or the insurance company on the other side may also make a contribution towards your costs and outlays such as for medical reports.
If the sum awarded by the Injuries Board is rejected by you or the other party a letter of authorisation will be issued by the Injuries Board. This allows you to pursue your claim through the Courts by way of a personal injuries action.
If you subsequently win your case or it is settled and the sum awarded is greater than the initial assessment amount by the Injuries Board, you will almost certainly get an order for costs of your action against either the defendant or insurance company.
However, this order will not cover the solicitors’ fees and other costs incurred prior to the authorisation.
Note: In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.