Solicitors Costs

I put £500 on account with a firm of solicitors to start to review the merits of my case. We agreed to a two hour meeting too and I was sent a letter of Terms and Conditions at £250 ph payable on invoice. At the start I told my solicitor, when she suggested it owing to my meagre freelance fees, that I would need special payment terms to continue using their expensive services, which she said would need to be worked out but there would be one in place somehow if I did not have legal insurance. I have heard nothing to bring about such conditions, just two letters demanding payment for work carried out over and above the cost of what I put on account (£500) - for £750 more. I was surprised at how high it was, which is well over £1200. However, I am prepared to pay it - as long as it is in manageble and affordable chunks.  

It seems to be taking forever for the firm to arrive at any special arrangements for me to pay this sum and any going forward - a stipulation which I agreed to use their services in the first place. The solicitor has said one thing but the admin team seem to be saying another and I got a stroppy letter saying how disappointed they had been that I had not 'settled in full.'

I am now starting to believe that these special arrangements won't come about and I will simply be expected to charge the costs to my credit card or pay the amount in full for this and for each time a new stage materialises requiring more of their time. I won't be able to afford their services at all then.

When the demand for the bill arrived, it was in letter form. There was no summary of how costs were arrived out either. Given that I did not agree to the additional costs over and above what I put on account (£500), am I legally able to refuse to pay it if I had not agreed these costs in advance? I dont' really want to fall out with this firm, as the solicitor is brilliant. It is the accounts department that are not so great, it is starting to seem. All the same, I have to be realistic here. If I have to use another solicitor I may have to start all over again - even duplicating the work already done for the £500 I have paid up, and this is unaffordable if I have to pay this additional sum too and can't move forward with the same firm.

What are my legal rights on paying a bill that far extended what I had agreed to and put on account, with no summary of time spent too included in the letter demanding payment? I fear that I might have to simply refuse to pay it if I cannot settle in in management affordable chunks as I assumed and was told I would be able to. I don't intend to stick in on a credit card (something the firm does allow). That is not the answer and simply racks up high rates of interest if I am forced to pay it off in chunks instead. My credit card is not for those purposes and i pay it all off each month anyway and don't intend to change that arrangement. I use it as a free of interest charge card and that is that.

Can anyone give me a run down on my legal rights to refuse payment on the outstanding bill of £750 if they don't honour an agreement installment plan? I feel that I should be able to if the sum was not agreed, the summary of works can't materialise, even if I am sure that the solicitor did spend as much time of my work as she claims. The problem is that I really like the solicitor and she seems very competent.

Put in  formal complaint to

Put in  formal complaint to the firm.

If not satisfied with the reply refer to Legal Ombudman.

Terms and conditions and any special arrangements should be put in writing at the very outset.


Profile: retired barrister legal adviser with MOJ.

Your rights are contained in

Your rights are contained in your client care letter.

Profile: Independent (owner ABS) legal professional: 25+ year work history incl. 10 years in child protection - nine years legal experience in non-molestation/occupation orders; housing law (tenant/landlord); mortgages; possession hearings and family proceedings. Advice is provided for the purpose of answering the questions posed, based on the information given. Happy to accept instructions from those in the London area.

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