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James Murray v Richard Slade & Co Ltd : an important appeal victory

Counsels-fees Appeal Court upholds disallowance of £18,000 counsel's fees, and finding that a CFA had been terminated unlawfully

We are pleased to have secured an appeal victory for our client, James Murray,  handed down on 17th December.

Sir Andrew Nicol upheld Master Haworth's first instance decision in which he disallowed an additional fee sought in respect of counsel, and found that the Defendant solicitors had terminated a Conditional Fee Agreement in another matter "without good cause or on reasonable notice", disentitling them to any payment under that retainer.

As  part of the assessment proceedings are ongoing, we comment only on the general points of principle on the appeal, which was heard by Sir Andrew Nicol -

  • A finding that  Counsel's fee which combined brief and refresher fees  (an "all-in fee for the trial") was unusual was permissible [60]
  • CPR 46.9.3 (c) is not limited to instances where there had been an inter partes assessment and the costs had not been recovered from an opponent [61]
  • The presumption of unreasonableness where CPR 46.5.9.3(c) is engaged is rebuttable [63]
  • A complaint by the client does not amount to an irretrievable breakdown in the necessary relationship of trust  : "In modern times, solicitors have to  accept that complaints (whether of poor service or as to fees) go with the territory of professional practice" [89]

Our client was represented by Robin Dunne of Gatehouse Chambers; the Appellant was represented by Ben Williams QC.

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We have conducted cases challenging solicitor's costs at all levels up to and including the Court of Appeal.