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Common Words and Terms in Legal Fees


The field of legal fees, just like the law generally, is full of jargon that can be difficult to understand.

Here we explain in hopefully straightforward language some of the terms you might come across.

ATE Insurance / ATE Premium An ATE policy is a policy of insurance taken out to cover the risk of losing your case and having to pay the opponent's costs. The ATE premium is the cost of that policy.

In personal injury cases the policy is usually taken out on your behalf by the solicitor without you having any direct contact with the insurer. 

The premium is then deducted from your compensation, usually in addition to any "success fee"
Base Costs Your solicitor's ordinary costs, which are potentially recoverable from the opponent in the event of a win. These are usually calculated on an hourly rate basis
Conditional Fee Agreement, or "CFA"Usually a "no win, no fee" agreement, but can also be a "discounted fee if you do not win" agreement
Damages Based Agreement, or "DBA"An agreement where the amount you pay is a fixed percentage of your compensation
DisbursementAn external payment made by your solicitor, for example a court fee or payment for an expert's report
Interim Statute BillA bill that, although not delivered at case end, is final for the period that it covers and otherwise complies with all of the requirements for a "Statute Bill". Time limits for challenging this bill run from the date of the individual bill, not from the date of the final bill, so they have a dramatic impact on your rights to challenge the overall fees. For a bill to be treated by the court as an interim statute bill, the "retainer" should explain clearly that that is the purpose of periodic billing.
RetainerThe basis on which you agree to instruct your solicitor. This might be a "Conditional Fee Agreement", a "Funding Pack", "Terms of Business", any other contractual documentation that sets out what the solicitors will do and how they will charge
Success FeeAn additional amount, NOT recoverable from the opponent, calculated as a % of base costs (if your success fee was calculated as a % of your compensation, get in touch straight away as it is possible that you have been overcharged). The % should reflect the risk of not winning your case so, for example, in an accident claim where you were hit from behind or were a passenger in the vehicle, it should be no more than around 15%.
Statute BillA bill, delivered to you once the case is complete, that is complete and final and has been signed by the solicitor (electronic signature counts). It should contain sufficient detail for you to understand how the charges have been calculated, and take advice as to whether or not they are reasonable
Were you charged an ATE Premium?
Check your solicitor's billing arrangements
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