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Solicitor holding ten thousand pounds from my settlement


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Hi. Can any one offer some comments please.

 

I suffer from a disability and the solicitors in question new about this how ever they still failed to make reasonable adjustments as indicated in my medical reports.

 

In short the solicitors have kept £10,700 from a settlement of around £15,000 and neither the solicitors or my legal insurers will tell me why?

 

I engaged a firm of solicitors last year ( Doyle Clayton) to assist in a dispute for disability discrimination. I had originally instructed a different law firm and the bulk of my case up to completion of the ET1 and disclosure to the other party had already been completed. I changed solicitors because I needed a local solicitor who I could talk to face to face because of my disability. The solicitors were fully aware I have difficulty reading and writing. In the eventuality I never met the solicitors face to face because the company reached a settlement with me shortly after engaging the solicitor. There were about four letters of offer of settlement before the company and I agreed to the amount of settlement. The solicitors drafted the compromise agreement. In total I estimate that the solicitors probably did less then 10 hours work as the whole case was already set out and I had already had a pre tribunal hearing with the previous solicitors.

 

During the short time I engaged the solicitors they never sent me any estimate of costs, agreed to work within the terms of my legal insurers and never mentioned to me until after the event that I would be liable for any money or that they would recover that money from my settlement.

 

I have now found out that they negotiated with my legal insurers to change the standard terms of engagement so that I would be liable for any charges my insurers found unreasonable.

 

My insurers say they have had the companies final bill independently assessed and will not pay any amount the assers feel is unreasonable.

 

Till today I have not had any details from the solicitors of what their final bill was, how it was made up or any details from my legal insurers on what they are willing to pay or how the solicitor charges were assessed.

 

The solicitors have not responded to my complaint through their complaints procedure and have not provided me with any of the information I have requested.

 

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Send them a letter and tell them that if they don't start acting correctly and release your compensation you will report them (your solicitor personally not the firm) to sra.

I bet you get a response the very same day

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Send them a letter and tell them that if they don't start acting correctly and release your compensation you will report them (your solicitor personally not the firm) to sra.

I bet you get a response the very same day

 

Why not write stating you will take it to the Legal Ombudsman (LO), rather than the SRA?

 

Did you get any "client care" information about your complaint options when you first engaged their services?

 

The SRA could take it to the SDT, but the LO can order compensation as well as making an SRA referral......

 

In most circumstances they should follow their own complaints procedures, and answer within their set time frame but there are (a very few!) circumstances in which they

a) won't progress a case, and

b) won't tell you why they aren't answering,

when dealing with a transfer of funds. They would be able to explain to the SRA / LO .........

 

I have no knowledge of your case beyond what you have posted here, so I suspect you'll find out when they get round to (/ become able to) reply to your complaint.

You can only go to the LO once:

A) the firm have issued a final response (or a "deadlock letter"), or

B) 8 weeks have elapsed from a formal complaint and it remains unanswered.

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You can only go to the LO once:

A) the firm have issued a final response (or a "deadlock letter"), or

B) 8 weeks have elapsed from a formal complaint and it remains unanswered.

However you can file a complaint to the sra whenever you want providing them evidence that they have ignored you.

Believe me, legal firms don't like being referred to the sra and they will reply immediately if you make your intentions known.

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However you can file a complaint to the sra whenever you want providing them evidence that they have ignored you.

Believe me, legal firms don't like being referred to the sra and they will reply immediately if you make your intentions known.

 

And if the OP hasn't yet given the firm "a reasonable time" in which to respond (and what is reasonable will be influenced by the firm's reasons, which may only become clearer with time!) : what principles, outcomes or indicative behaviours of the SRA code of conduct should the OP claim have been breached?

 

If the OP wants to put pressure on by "holding a gun to the head of the firm's offices"; the pressure is so much greater when the OP shows it is loaded with real ammo, not "blanks".

 

The SRA may also not be able to act, if the complaint is poor service rather than a breach of their Principles. From their website

http://www.sra.org.uk/consumers/problems.page

 

We work with solicitors, firms, other types of lawyers and non-lawyers to make sure they comply with our Principles, to make sure they behave independently, fairly and with integrity to best serve the interests of their clients and the public interest. We welcome information about dishonesty or breaches of our Principles; however, we are not able to deal with issues of poor service.

The Legal Services Ombudsman deals with complaints about poor service. Poor service includes failures to keep you properly informed about your legal matter. The SRA deals with failures to comply with professional obligations such as a duty to keep your affairs confidential or duty to act honestly and with integrity. Some failures to comply with professional obligations can also amount to poor service. The Legal Ombudsman's website will help identify how you can best receive help. If you report poor service to the Legal Services Ombudsman and they consider it amounts to a failure to comply with professional obligations they will also pass the matter to the SRA for us to consider. The Legal Services Ombudsman may direct a firm or individual pay you compensation for poor service. The SRA cannot award compensation to you. Our powers are regulatory and include taking action against the firm or individual concerned such as helping them to comply with their obligations or, where the issue is serious, controlling the way they work in the future.

 

So, the LO:

a) covers a wider remit including poor service that doesn't breach the Principles

b) still involves the risk of SRA referral,

c) adds the risk to the firm they have to compensate the OP, but

d) does involve the deadlock / 8 week delay.

 

Sure, the OP can threaten to go to the SRA before the 8 weeks, but the solicitors will know this is a hollow threat if they haven't breached the principles. The SRA (or, THREAT of the SRA) becomes the better option only when the OP wants to act now AND the complaint relates to dishonesty or breach of confidentiality.

 

This is why I suggest the threat of a LO complaint is a more powerful lever for the situation the OP has described.

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Thread moved to the appropriate forum.

 

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Hi Bazza, that's why I said to write to the solicitor and let them know of the intentions to complain to sra.

Going to the sra without telling the solicitor would be of no use.

And of course mentioning the intention to go to the LO will add even more weight to the letter.

Withholding money is a very good ground to complain to sra.

A friend was in the same situation a few years ago about an inheritance and as soon as he sent a letter mentioning the sra he got his money.

One thing is sure, the solicitor cannot hold money for an unreasonable time and ignore letters and emails.

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Thank you all for your Information. I understand there are two sides to the story and this only tells mine. The situation has moved on a little.

I have contacted the Legal Ombudsman and have a reference number. I was told that 14 Days should be sufficient for the Solicitors to respond to my case. This has lapsed and I have had no response. I am sure the Solicitors know what they are doing and there is a reason for holding my money. The only reason I am aware of is that they are waiting for my Legal Insurers to complete an assessment of their fees to see how much my legal Insurers will pay and any deficit will be made up from the money they are holding. I still believe holding on to £10,000 is excessive and causing unnecessary hardship. My legal Insurers say they will pay all reasonable amounts and so any amount not paid that I will then become liable for would have been considered 'unreasonable, by my legal Insurers independent review of the costs.

 

I have not received any invoices or been copied in on any invoices to my legal Insurers and neither party will tell me how much has been claimed by my solicitors.

According to the Legal Ombudsman this is unacceptable. It is also unacceptable that I was not given any estimate of possible costs at the start of the engagement or that I was not Informed of costs that could amount to £10,000 during the case or even after the settlement had been reached with my employers.

 

My first knowledge that the solicitors were going to hold on to £10,000 is when they sent me an email advising me they were going to 'Refund £5,700) to me which I read as I had over paid there fees by £5700 even though they had not invoiced me at the time and I had paid them nothing. When I enquired about this I was verbally told that the £5700 was not in fact a refund but part of my settlement. I have the emails and I say that this is deceiving in its self. I also wonder if by treating it as a refund the solicitors may have made any tax benefit from this? Of coarse they will say this was just a mistake but its a pretty major mistake for a large firm of solicitors specialising in employment Law.

 

It is also unacceptable that my solicitors did not provide me with details of their complaints procedure in compliance with reasonable adjustments for my disability and they did not advice me of my right to complain to the legal ombudsman.

 

I have also had some initial advice from a solicitor and barrister who suggest that what ever the reason the solicitors have to hold on to my money they have been in breach of process and have knowingly entered a clause in the contract between us that amounts to an unfair term in the contract. i.e. They should not have altered the standard terms of business with my legal insurers in a way that would allow them to charge me amounts of money that would otherwise be unreasonable.

While I was copied in on several emails when the solicitors negotiated this with my legal insurers none of the emails were addressed to me and I was never asked to confirm in writing that I understood and accepted the revised terms. Given the solicitors new my disability and on some occasions made reasonable adjustments there is reason I can think of why they did not make those reasonable adjustments in terms of the revised clause I.e. they never talked verbally to me about the implications of the change or sent me anything in writing to my home address in a suitable format that I could read.

 

To this extent I am waiting a further 14 Days for the solicitors to provide me with a prorate invoice ( which they should have done at the completion of the case) which I will then challenge through a judicial review of the costs. If the costs are found to be reasonable my legal Insurers will be challenged for refusal to pay. If the costs are found unreasonable the solicitors will be subject to further action including compensation and loss of earnings.

 

Over and above this there is still a high chance that the solicitors have been negligent , there advice was negligent and that their negligence has led to financial loss and caused unnecessary hurt to feeling. I am perusing this as a separate matter.

 

This may not be the right thing to do but all I want is the remainder of the compensation I was awarded (£10,000) and for the solicitors to honour the written and implied terms that we agreed to when I first moved my case to them. Because the solicitors appeared to have gone silent on me and are dragging this out I feel I have no option but to seek compensation and charge back any additional legal costs that I may now incur. Bear in mind that they received the Money in October 2015 and we are now speeding through January 2016.

 

In terms of the Legal Ombudsman. I get the feeling that the solicitors are confident that the LO will favour them and that it will be difficult for me to put forward a persuasive case . I am always a little suspicious of ombudsman and my past experience is they have normally favoured with Banks and big business and so I am holding on to this option while I see if I can make a case for negligence and breach of the written and implied terms of the contract between us on a contingency fee basis.

 

All comments are welcome.

 

K

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Hello - it is always very difficult to advise on cases like this, as it sounds like a lot has happened. Raising your complaint with the Legal Ombudsman was a good move as they are the responsible for investigating standard of service complaints against solicitors.

 

The really important thing is to make sure that the Ombudsman has all the information they need and that they know exactly why you aren't happy, so that the Ombudsman is able to recommend an appropriate resolution. Mainly it will be the fact that the solicitor is holding onto the £10k, but it sounds like there are lots of other issues as well, such as you not receiving a clear explanation of the costs charged or full information regarding the firm's invoice. Separately, it is also worth following up with the insurer to find out why it is taking the insurer so long to deal with the solicitor's costs.

 

I don't see how the solicitors could have agreed with the insurer that you must pay any excess payments. That is surely a matter between you and the solicitor, rather than between you and the insurer. That should have been clearly explained. It may have been mentioned in the firm's engagement letter, but as you say if you are not able to read the letter, then the firm should have explained it to you.

 

It may be that the reason the solicitors have not responded to your further complaint is the fact that your complaint is already with the Legal Ombudsman. Raising your case to the Ombudsman is supposed to follow the firm's final response to your complaint.

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Thank you all for your response.

 

I have been putting to gather the paperwork for LO with some support. Its been pointed out to me that I should clarify a few points here.

 

1. the last conversation I had with my legal insurers is that the solicitors were holding up review of the costs because they had not provided further details that had been requested. So my legal insurers were at the time in a similar position to me. The solicitors appear just not to care about their legal obligations, the extreme hardship they are causing and I also wonder how many other clients they may have done this too.

 

2. I talked to a solicitor at the firm and my legal insurers at least four times before moving to them from another firm of solicitors. My reason to change was that the other firm appeared to have difficulty in making adjustments for my disability and I was not able to meet them face to face. My disability was made clear to these solicitors and they were given my disability reports prior to instructing them.

 

3. I carried out with support as much due diligence as I could prior to instructing the firm I took what they said at face value and I had no reason to dispute what they said prior to engaging them. Based on what they told me I genuinely believed that all my costs would be covered by my legal insurers and they would liaise directly with my legal insurers to recover ALL of their costs.

 

4. In several phone calls and confirmed in at least one email the solicitors agreed to work within the terms of my legal Insurers standard terms of business. These had already been set out for my previous solicitor. They were standard terms and so these are the original terms the solicitor accepted engagement on. This included a fixed fee of £180 an hour and all reasonable costs would be re-in burst. The solicitors told me that their normal fees were £360 an hour but in my case they had made an exception and would take the case on at £180 an hour. This is not in dispute. I believe they tried to make this up by inflating their Invoice to my legal insurers.

 

5. About a month after I engaged the solicitors they sent me an invoice of £3500. At this point I had not received any estimated costs and was not expecting this Invoice. When I quarried it with the solicitor I was told that I would be able to claim this back from my former employers if I was successful at the tribunal or from my Legal Insurers if my case was unsuccessful. This concerned the people who were helping me. I quarried this again and was told that because the agreement between the solicitor and my legal insurers was not in place I would have to pay all accumulated costs until the agreement was in place, I could then claim the money back from my legal insurers after completion of the case. I do not believe this to be true.

 

6. When I investigated this with my Legal Insurers they told me that the agreement was not in place because the solicitors would not agree to the standard terms of business and were requesting several changes.

 

7. When I quarried these changes with the solicitor they advised me this was normal practice negotiate with my legal insurers. It was at this point that I started to be included in emails between the solicitors and my legal insurers. There were several changes they made which left me disadvantaged the main one being the ability to charge me for any deficit following a review of their costs.

 

8. Having now been forced to go through all the trauma and hardship especially over the Christmas period I know believe that I should not even have been charged the £3500. The costs had been incurred because of the changes the solicitor requested to my legal insurers standard terms of business. The solicitors new what these were prior to taking on the case and had told me they would work within those terms, they changed their minds only after I engaged the and both ACAS and my former employers had been told I had changed solicitor.

 

9. Originally I was willing to compromise with the solicitors without prejudice and pay them the £3500. I received an email from the solicitors which I thought amounted to this. They Informed me they would be paying my compensation - £3500. (£12,400)

 

10. I was in hospital at the time but about two weeks later I received an email invoice indicating a £5700 refund. It was only when I quarried it that I became aware they were keeping the whole of the remaining £10,000.

 

11. Throughout this they have never talked to me about the breakdown of their costs or sent me any details / invoices suitable for me to read and understand because of my disability.

 

12. Bearing in mind they agreed to charge me £180 per hour this is what I recall they did for me:

 

13. Forward my medical reports and my disability reports to the defendants. This were already prepared by the previous solicitor so just a case of sending them on.

 

14. Forward further and better details to the defendant. I wrote these out with my own support and I had one approximately 20-minute phone call with the solicitor to talk through the details before they were forwarded.

 

15. I had approximately four more twenty minute calls with the solicitor around the offers and counter offers that were being made. There were approximately four rounds of offers and counter offers all very straight forward I.e. the company offered to settle for £10,000, I asked for £20,000 we settled at £15,700.

 

16. Personally I cannot see how a senior experienced solicitor could make up a bill to over £13,500 + whatever has been invoiced to my legal insurers which must be substantial for it to be audited @ £180 an hour for this work. At a guess I say they have invoiced about 7 Days without sleep working 24 X7 when in fact it was a straight forward case that any normally abled person could have done themselves. I am inclined to view this as theft.

 

It’s a shame there isn’t a PPI type ruling about solicitor costs so that everyone being put through a similar situation can get their money back.

Edited by honeybee13
Paras.
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  • 3 weeks later...

HI. Just thought I would keep this thread updated.

I have not sent my complaint to the legal ombudsman yet as I wanted to ensure I gave the solicitors every opportunity to respond to me. I received an email from the Solicitors, again in a format that I find it hard to read because of my disability. Having had it explained to me , the Solicitors are basically saying that the Insurers have put payment on hold indefinably because of my complaint and so the solicitors are going to keep my £10,000. In a separate email from the solicitors which I missed before Christmas they have written to my Insurers asking for around £5.000. So it looks like they are keeping £10,000 because an invoice for £5000 has not been paid?

 

The solicitors have still not given me any details of how they arrived at their costs and have not given me any visibility of their final invoice to my Insurers. In addition I can now see that there is communication between the Solicitors and my Insurers that I am not copied into and have no visibility of.

 

I could get a solicitor to act on my behalf with this case but it would cost me a considerable percentage of the my money i.e. I have been quoted 25% if they are successful in recovering my £10,000. They would of coarse get their costs from the other Solicitors. Bothe parties would lose out so I don't understand why I am being pushed towards this.

 

I can see that Doyle Clayton Solicitors have no Intention of respecting my disability or of treating me with the same respect as a non disabled person. They are also not concerned about being reported to the Legal Ombudsman and my personal experience is I could never Trust Them again.

 

As a final attempt to settle this without all the difficulty and stress that it will cause me to take the matter to LO I am going to offer them a without prejudice offer of settling for £8000 and allow them to carry on their costs claim with my Legal Insurer. This means they could get up to £8000 for writing three letters as that is all they did in my case before I settled with my employer. I think they are more Mad than I am for carrying on in this way. They are clearly just trying it on and exploiting the fact that it will be difficult for me to reclaim money owed to me because of my disability.

 

I am left wondering what happened to fair and equal treatment for people with disabilities in the UK? I settled with my employer of disability discrimination only to find that the solicitors I engaged to support me decided to discriminate against me in the same way as my employers. Over all I have lost at least £7000 in other costs and so I gained nothing from my case but instead lost money trying to exercise my right to be treated equally. I just feel the way I have been treated is disgraceful, it lets down all solicitors and makes a mockery of the UK Justice system.

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I would try to get some help from the Legal Ombudsman. There is a system in place to deal with issues like this so you might as well use it.

 

I don't see how the insurers can hold onto the money 'indefinitely'. There must be a process for resolving your complaint.

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I wouldn't settle for anything that is less than what you're owed.

Send a final request to the solicitor and highlight that you want a breakdown of costs.

Also, write in big capital letters that they must provide you with a format that you can read.

If they don't reply and the ombudsman doesn't do anything then you will have a case for court

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