People sometimes contact us because they are unhappy or concerned about a fee they have been asked to pay.
We can't tell you whether a fee is reasonable for the work carried out.
However, we can look at complaints about fees where:
- the amount you have been asked to pay is very different from the quote you received at the beginning; or
- you have been charged for work which wasn't done.
In these situations, you should follow the process for making a complaint to us, which includes making the complaint to the firm first.
If we uphold a complaint about fees, we can have your fees reduced or refunded.
Firms can raise court actions to recover fees whether or not a complaint has been made to the SLCC. Having a complaint with us will not affect or stop any court action.
If your bill is due to be paid, you should either pay this or ask for independent legal advice about not doing so.
If you do not pay the fee, and court proceedings are raised against you, a decree could be granted and you may be found liable for the court costs. Your credit rating could also be affected.
We can't tell you whether the fees we have been charged are reasonable for the work carried out. If that is your concern, you should follow the steps below.
First of all, you should talk about your concerns to your solicitor or the firm’s Client Relations Manager.
If you ask how your fee has been made up, you should be given a summary of the work done for you and how the charges have been calculated. This information should be free.
You can also ask for a detailed breakdown of the bill. This will include each letter, the time spent by each person who worked on your file, and the length of each telephone call. The firm can charge you for putting this together.
If you are still unhappy with the amount you have been charged, you can ask for the account to be independently looked at. This is called “taxation” and is carried out by an Auditor of Court.
The Auditor will look at all the paperwork and decide what the correct fee should be.
If you wish to have the Auditor look at your fee, you can ask the firm to have this carried out. However, bear in mind that signing up to use an Auditor means that you must accept the Auditor’s decision as binding.
If you want, you can attend a hearing before the Auditor to put forward your views. You should tell the firm that you would like to have a hearing so that this can be included in the papers sent to the Auditor. You will be told the date and time of the hearing by your solicitor or the Auditor.
The cost of using an Auditor is usually 3% or 4% of the final fee which is decided.
If the Auditor finds that the fees were too high, these will be reduced and the firm will also have to pay the Auditor’s costs. However, if the Auditor finds that the bill was reasonable, you are likely to be asked to pay the Auditor’s fee as well as the original bill.
Some firms always have their fees assessed by an Auditor when their work on a case is finished. This is particularly common in executry cases. However, the firm should always let you know at the beginning how their work will be charged. This will usually be in their Terms of Business letter.
The Law Society of Scotland’s website provides information on fees, taxation and other related matters: www.lawscot.org.uk
The Auditor of the Court of Session website provides detailed information on taxation: www.auditorcos.org.uk
The Citizens Advice Scotland website provides general information on solicitors’ costs, challenging a legal bill and taxation: www.cas.org.uk