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Updated guidance from the Legal Ombudsman as to its approach to complaints about legal fees

One of the major areas for complaint is overall service cost. We don't do detailed cost analysis, but if a complainant wants a detailed forensic bill analysis, we will usually signpost them to the Senior Courts Costs Office, if they are still in time to pursue that avenue.

Legal Ombudsman

The Ombudsman has updated its guidance to dealing with complaints over legal fees, which was first published in 2014. It is directed at the legal profession but is useful to clients in providing examples of the sorts of areas that the Ombudsman will look at, and how it is likely to resolve particular complaints.

We are often asked why, in some cases, an application for assessment under the Solicitors Act 1974 (in which the court determines the amount of the bill) is preferable to a complaint to the Ombudsman.

One of the answers to that question (and there can be a number of different reasons, depending upon the particular circumstances of the case) is that  - as per the quoted section of the guide opposite - the Legal Ombudsman "does not do detailed cost analysis" and if that is what the case needs it will signpost you to the Senior Courts Costs Office (for an assessment under the Solicitors Act) if you are still in time to pursue that avenue. The difficulty with that approach is that the time limits for assessment under the Act are strict and rather short. The absolute entitlement to an assessment expires for example one month from the day upon which you receive the bill, so by the time the Ombudsman suggests going down the detailed assessment route you may already be out of time.

Costs and cost information frequently feature in the complaints we receive. This refreshed guidance sets out the Legal Ombudsman's view of good costs service, supported by a range of case studies which also provide insight into how we resolve complaints.

In this updated edition we look at how the new transparency rules will inform our investigations going forward, as well as some of the common causes of costs complaints such as the information provided, the charging structure and managing changing costs.

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