These calls have been prompted by a report from the Legal Ombudsman which stated that it had dealt with around 600 complaints in the past year that were related to no win, no fee cases. As a result of these complaints, almost 1million in compensation has been paid out by offending legal firms.
These payouts happened after clients were wrongly billed in connection with no win, no fee agreements, the report citing ‘unethical practice’ by lawyers, who were ‘tempted to try and pass the risk onto a customer or simply go back on the terms of the agreement to get out of a problem they created.’ One example told of a man handed a 24,000 bill for costs, despite a law firm withdrawing their support and leaving him to represent himself in what was ultimately a successful case.
So is no win, no fee simply too good to be true? Well, it depends on how it’s dealt with by different legal firms.
Here at Fletchers Solicitors, we work on a no win, no fee basis but it’s an honest one – agreements with our clients mean that so long as they are honest and contact us when we need them to,they don’t pay a single penny unless their claim is successful and that’s a fact.
Unfortunately, as the Legal Ombudsman’s report states, not every firm operates on this basis. The Chief Ombudsman, Adam Sampson, backed up the report’s findings when he said: “No win, no fee is an apparent promise that lawyers and claims manage. That promise in many cases is just not real – it’s a false promise and what happens is that lawyers exploit the loophole in conditional fee arrangements.” While some lawyers do indeed exhibit these dubious tendencies, we don’t.
It’s perhaps worth a brief look at a couple of terms that are used when clients make a claim. The conditional fee agreements mentioned by Adam Sampson are essentially a more formal way of describing no win, no fee. These replaced a system using taxpayer-funded legal aid back in 1995 and should mean that once you enter the agreement and, providing you stick to it, you won’t pay your solicitors’ fees if you lose. Although that’s exactly what happens when you work with Fletchers, some of the case studies featured in the Legal Ombudsman’s report show instances of solicitors clearly breaching agreements.
Should your case be unsuccessful, another important piece of information to be aware of is having to pay the other side’s costs. These can be high, therefore it’s highly advisable to take out what is referred to as ‘after-the-event’ insurance before the case progresses. Taking out this insurance can be an expensive business but at Fletchers we recently decided to cover this cost for you.
You should also be aware of potential hidden costs when it comes to no win, no fee. These can depend on the particular circumstances of your case but you might, for example, have to pay costs if your solicitor advises you to drop your case or if the other side is ordered to pay costs but can’t afford to.
Fletchers don’t deal in hidden charges and our clients won’t experience such unpleasant surprises.
What Fletchers clients can expect is for us to demonstrate openness every step of the way. Another key theme to emerge from the Legal Ombudsman’s report is the need for legal firms to communicate with clients and we are committed to doing just that.
A person who has experienced a serious injury or been the victim of negligence will be going through a tough time and we’re here to make things easier in any way we can. That includes talking to clients, explaining clearly what is happening, simplifying legal jargon and treating them with sympathy and understanding. It also means demonstrating honesty and making no win, no fee exactly as it should be.