Friday, 17 February 2012

A ray of sunshine

It's easy enough - and getting easier - to lose sight of the law amid the web of regulation and powers given to various non-judicial bodies to adjust solicitors' charges.

Even judges get confused by it. I've been there - referring reverently to s15 of the Supply of Goods & Services Act 1982 whilst the court rules that even partial and inadvertent non-compliance with client care rules somehow precludes the existence of any right to be paid for your work.

This is a while ago for me, thankfully, but it still smarts. Dame Mary Arden's very sensible decision in Garbutt v Edwards in 2005 did much to put the lid on daft challenges but I know they still happen. In low value cases, appeals are realistically out of the question.

Seems it's the province of the fairer members of our Senior Courts to keep order here as The Honourable Mrs Justice Lang now weighs in with some clear and thus welcome interpretation in Fladgate LLP v Harrison [2012] EWHC 67 (QB) at paragraph 39 in particular:

" In my judgment, the giving of instructions by a client to a solicitor constitutes the 
solicitor’s retainer by that client. It is not essential that the retainer is in writing. It 
may be oral. It may be implied by the conduct of the parties in the particular case. 
Under the Solicitors Code of Conduct 2007, certain matters must be provided in 
i) The name and status of the person dealing with the matter, and the person 
responsible for overall supervision (rule 2.02(2)(d)); 
ii) Any information about the cost (rule 2.03(5)); 
iii) Details of the applicable complaints procedure (rule 2.05(1)(b)). 
But the Code Guidance explains that “it is not envisaged or intended that a breach … 
should invariably render a retainer unenforceable”. "

(Copy of the full judgment is available through the link at the foot of this post).

So, the law that works - when needed - for all other areas of commerce applies to solicitors too? Good. 

Hopes of a level playing field endure (just).