What is good service from a costs perspective?
The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) has recently published a report entitled “An ombudsman’s view of good costs service”.
The report explains that the issue of legal costs is something that features frequently in the complaints they receive, with around 13% of the complaints including a complaint about costs. At Riliance, we offer an outsourced complaints service and the complaints referred to us can often have issues with costs and the client feeling that the costs information has not been properly explained to them.
Failing to provide costs information and/or failing to ensure that the client is clear on the charging structure could result in a breach of a number of Outcomes in the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, such as:
- O(1.12) Clients are in a position to make informed decisions about the services they need, how their matter will be handled and the options available to them;
- O(1.13) Clients receive the best possible information, both at the time of engagement and when appropriate as their matter progresses, about the likely overall cost of their matter;
Some of the indicative behaviours below would tend to show that you have achieved the above outcomes:
- IB(1.14) clearly explaining your fees and if and when they are likely to change;
- IB(1.15) warning about any other payments for which the client may be responsible;
- IB(1.19) providing the information in a clear and accessible form which is appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the client;
In summary, your client should never be surprised when they receive your bill. With the variety of ways that a client can be charged e.g. fixed fee, hourly rate etc… it can however become confusing. Each charging structure is different and offers benefits and draw backs for both the client and lawyer. Whichever costs option you use, the LeO would expect the Lawyer to explain how it works, along with what it does and does not include. Lawyers have a responsibility to give their clients the best possible information and advice so they can choose the costs option that best suits their needs.
The published guidance from the LeO can be found here: https://www.legalombudsman.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/190509-An-Ombudsman-view-of-good-costs-service.pdf
There is also a range of guidance on the LeO website and don’t forget you can also get in touch with us if you have any queries. If you would like more details, please contact one of our team on 01829 731 200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author: Rhiannon Davies