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Success in ground breaking disciplinary case about solicitors’ fees

Tim Nesbitt QC successfully defends former partner and costs manager of a law firm in ground breaking disciplinary case about solicitors’ fees in clinical negligence actions.

Tim has just concluded a three week trial before the Solicitors’ Disciplinary Tribunal in which, for the first time, the Solicitors Regulatory Authority has sought to prosecute solicitors for misconduct said to arise from the setting of success fees and hourly rates in clinical negligence and personal injury actions undertaken under CFA’s.

The law firm in question (a well known personal injury practice in the North East) had undertaken clinical negligence claims against the NHSLA on what was described as an “industrial scale”, applying a blanket 100% success fee to all claims without undertaking a specific risk-assessment, and claiming a £400 per hour hourly rate in the CFAs, regardless of seniority of fee earner.

Although the £400 hourly rate was never accepted or paid by the NHSLA, the SRA alleged that the attempt to “charge” such hourly rates and not to undertake bespoke risk assessments before setting success fees was dishonest and involved a breach of integrity.

The case involved detailed consideration of numerous costs practices in the personal injury and clinical negligence fields, especially in relation to the setting of success fees, and involved evidence from several costs experts, including well known costs counsel.

Tim acted for the solicitor who had managed the costs department of the firm as well as the former partner in charge of compliance. They were acquitted of all charges of dishonesty and integrity, but findings of breach of integrity were made against the former senior partner and owner of the firm (who Tim did not act for) who initiated the charging practices.

News 6 Aug, 2018

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