Members of the profession may not know that they can be out of pocket paying counsel’s fees when the court has determined that those fees are unreasonable. Astounding though this might seem, this has just happened in one of my cases.

It is a very long story, but basically we were acting for a person who insisted on our using a particular counsel. The client did not pay our fees or counsel’s fees and challenged them. We told counsel that they were being challenged and paid counsel under protest, saying that if the fees were reduced on assessment we would be asking for a refund. Counsel’s fees were reduced on a detailed assessment called for by the client and I duly asked for the £1,000 back from counsel which had been deducted, the court having found them to be unreasonable. I thought, perhaps foolishly, that this would result in immediate repayment by counsel. Not so.

I took the matter to the Joint Tribunal and its decision was that it did not matter how unreasonable the court had found the fees to be, we could not have the money back, nor of course could we get it from the client. The poor solicitors had to pay counsel’s unreasonable fees.

It seems to me that there is one law for we poor solicitors and another for the bar. If our fees are found to be unreasonable we do not get paid. If a barrister’s fees are found to be unreasonable it does not make any difference, they still get paid.

Has anybody else had a similar experience?

Roger Millman, London EC2