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Have you been charged for "Unusual" Items by your solicitor?

Creative-billing order to come within 46.9(3)(c), it seems to me that the defendant must specifically point to the unusual aspect and give specific advice upon it.

Master Rowley, Senior Courts Costs Office, judgment paragraph 13

Being charged for a dream about the litigant's wife may be pushing it to extremes, but if you have been charged for items of work that are "unusual in nature" or "unusual in amount" then you could well be entitled to a reduction or refund unless your solicitor told you that, as a result of them being unusual, you might not be entitled to recover the full cost of the same from your opponent.

The principle comes from Rule 46.9(3)(c) of the Civil Procedure Rules.

In Breyer Group and Others -v- Prospect Law Limited 26th July 2017, (see below to download the full judgment) the specialist costs judge (Master Rowley of the Senior Courts Costs Office) applied the rule to various categories of work, but in particular to the overall time charging basis.

Whereas the norm is for solicitors to charge for their time on the basis of 6 minute units (so that each item of work costs a minimum of 1/10th of the hourly rate, or is rounded up to the next 1/10th) Prospect Law had charged on the basis of 10 minute units (so that each item of work costs a minimum of 1/6th of the hourly rate, or is rounded up to the next 1/6th). 

For large individual times this makes relatively little difference, or sometimes no difference at all. If something occupies an hour then it does not matter whether that is described as 10 x 6 minute units, or 6 x 10 minute units. The cost will be the same.

But large parts of a solicitor's time is spent in "routine correspondence" or "routine telephone calls", for which a single unit is usually charged.

At a rate of £250 per hour (for illustrative purposes only - it is not clear what rate was being charged in the Breyer case) that is a difference of £16.67 for each letter or telephone call, so over the course of a long case it can build up very substantially.

The Master found that it was not sufficient for the solicitors to give a general warning that their clients may not recover all of their costs from their opponents in the event of success, but that there must a specific warning about the unusual item.

He also found that -

  • Invoicing and credit control are administrative matters to be included within a solicitor's overheads, rather than time spent on them being charged to the client
  • Incoming correspondence, where it is allowed under the retainer, should be charged at half of the "routine" rate, which is one twentieth of an hour each

If you feel that you have been overcharged, do please get on touch.​

File Name: Breyer-Group-v-Prospect-Law-Limited-cpr-46.93
File Size: 2.6 mb
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