Appeal against costs awarded by Legal Services Regulatory Authority (LSRA)

A woman in a family law case had claimed that her solicitor sought an excessive fee of more than €232,000 after their contentious high-net-value case and sought a review of the LSRA award to the High Court. She sought a declaration to overturn the legal bill. The LSRA had decided that her solicitor’s legal fees had not been excessive.

Her High Court case against her husband took eight days and she won significant reliefs though the woman said she was very unhappy with the result in the separation proceedings. She claimed to the court that her solicitor had not provided adequate legal services.

The judge observed that the woman complained bitterly about the outcome of the judicial separation proceedings in that they fell below what she had anticipated. She claimed that her life had been ruined from the efforts of her legal representatives and that the final straw was the legal bill which she believed was an exorbitant sum.

The High Court judge in dismissing her appeal against the finding of the LSRA, said he was satisfied that the review committee of the LSRA did not err in finding that the solicitor had provided adequate legal services during the litigation for their client. He was not satisfied any significant error had been shown to exist in the determination of the committee.

 

In 2017, the woman was given the estimated fees the case could amount to, being a solicitor’s brief fee of €30,000 plus VAT. She was also informed that if the matter were to proceed to court, there would be a daily fee of €3,500 plus VAT and outlay to “third parties”, such as senior and junior counsel and any experts engaged.

Two years later the woman signed an undertaking in relation to the fees that would be incurred at the hearing of the family law proceedings, which were due to commence.

The undertaking stated it had been explained to her that senior counsel would charge a €9,000 plus VAT brief fee to deal with her case and €2,500, plus VAT, for every day that it ran in the High Court.

Junior counsel was to charge a brief fee of €6,000, plus VAT and €2,000 plus VAT for every day that it ran before the court.

The forensic accountant was expected to charge in the region of €6,500, plus VAT.

The judge felt that the woman had confused the unhappy ending of her marriage with the many aspects of the litigation which included a land dispute, and she placed the blame on her solicitor. This position taken by the woman was unfounded both in fact and in law.

The judge then went through the work done in the litigation and the fees charged which amounted to a total bill of €235,645 with deductions for money previously paid, making the final bill €232,920.

The woman contended the solicitor had agreed at the outset to charge a fee of €30,000 and she claimed there was no basis for the fee note she was presented at the conclusion of the proceedings.

The solicitor to the LSRA and the review committee contended she had never agreed a fixed fee of €30,000 and it had been made clear about various outlays.

The judge dismissed her appeal and upheld the ruling of the LSRA in the amount of legal fees awarded.

LL v. Legal Services Regulatory Authority  IEHC 315.

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