The problem with lawyers – and the answer!

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Most clients believe that their lawyers are well trained, disciplined and professionally regulated. They are entitled to expect a high standard of professional service. Most dissatisfaction arises not from the service received but from the cost of that service.

Solicitors cost more than £200 plus vat an hour and specialist solicitors, advising on matters such as Construction Law can often charge a lot more.

It is not unusual to hear stories of clients being charged £500 “to send a letter” and of cases that cost more to prepare and present than the sums in dispute.

My view is that the problem stems from the fact that lawyers are following a traditional model of costing. They are set up to charge by the hour and as it is very profitable they have no incentive to change the way they charge.

This causes problems as complicated proceedings will inevitably cost a great deal of money to prepare and present if they are charged by the hour.

But matters are made worse by the fact that in some proceedings, for example Small Claims proceedings (for sums less than £10,000) and Adjudication a claimant cannot claim any costs from its opponent even if it wins. The costs of the preparation and presentation of the case must be written off!

In other court proceedings costs recovery will be limited and subject to set limits depending on the amount in dispute. The Claimant will always lose an element of the sums to be paid for the preparation and presentation of the case.

Add to this that the costs of the case in the small claims may be a significant proportion of the sum claimed and in the higher courts will be very significant sums which need to be paid as the case progresses and it is easy to see that Claimants face an unhappy choice when considering whether to take proceedings or settle on the best terms available.

Governments have tried to address the costs of legal proceedings but have been unable to do so. Clients have very little choice and nowhere to go but to solicitors who perpetuate the problem.

Having spent many years wrestling with legal costs and writing off many thousand of pounds due from clients who were simply unable to pay their bills I decided to address the problem.

The National Legal Consortium takes a different approach.

Clients pay a monthly fee based on the turnover of their business. It can be as little as £150 plus vat per month for a small business.

In return for the monthly fee clients get unlimited Construction Law advice – it’s as simple as that. They can take proceedings, defend proceedings, get advice on contracts, problems on site – whatever they need.

There are some sensible restrictions on the service – for example clients must pay court fees and other disbursements, the service pays for the solicitor’s time – but the service is popular with the clients who join the scheme. Have a look at the testimonials at www.nlcuk.net.

The scheme provides access to proceedings to companies that would not otherwise be able to afford them. It allows companies to take advice at an early stage so that proceedings may be avoided all together. Clients know that they will not be charged for doing so and can seek advice without worrying about the costs of doing so.

I must ask why any company would continue to pay £250 plus vat an hour for legal services when it can get the same service for £150 plus vat per month. I believe that the National Legal Consortium represents an important development in legal costs which makes access to justice affordable to all.

The scheme is only available from the National Legal Consortium and you can find details of the scheme at www.nlcuk.net or by calling David Jackson on 0800 085 7772.

 

 

Felix Clarke

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