A leading media lawyer and his former firm will meet in the High Court next month in a dispute over allegedly unpaid fees. Mark Lewis, who ran high-profile claims on behalf of victims of phone-hacking by newspapers, is suing London firm Taylor Hampton
The firm has made a defence and counter-claim, alleging Lewis had failed to devote the agreed 25 hours per week of chargeable time to the provision of legal services.
The trial is listed for four days in a five-day window starting on 23 October.
The High Court this week rejected the firm’s final application to amend its defence, counterclaim and response to Lewis’ request for information.
In Mark Lewis Law Ltd & Anor v Taylor Hampton Solicitors Ltd & Anor, it was revealed for the first time the firm had counterclaimed originally for £768,889. The eventual amount actually claimed for was advanced on the basis of the differential between the fees actually billed (£744,000) and the notional fees which could have been billed if Lewis had done that work at his higher charge out rate.
At the start of August, Master Gidden dismissed an application from Taylor Hampton to amend the pleaded case and advance a much wider case on quantum. The firm had effectively asked for the differential approach to be abandoned and instead argued it had been deprived of the opportunity to obtain work and was entitled to more.
Gidden said Taylor Hampton had not made a compelling case to justify the amendments and thought the prejudice to Lewis and prospect of further delay ‘weighed heavily’ against permitting any change.
The next and final application, again heard by Gidden, was again dismissed as the judge concluded Taylor Hampton was ‘simply trying to reargue the point’ in a manner that was inconsistent with his previous order.
The firm appealed against that decision, but Mrs Justice Whipple said the application had no real prospect of success and there was ‘no compelling reason’ for it to be heard. She also rejected nine other grounds of appeal, save for two minor issues which did not take up any time at the hearing.
She described the latest application as a ‘collateral attack’ on the first Gidden decision and said Taylor Hampton had sought to ‘sidestep’ the differential approach and substitute an entirely different basis of counterclaim.
A spokesperson for Taylor Hampton said: ‘While the court has limited the size of the counterclaim, the defence to the substantive proceedings remains robust. In the final full year of Mark Lewis being at the firm he recorded less than 30 hours of chargeable time. Notwithstanding the minimal time recording, Mark Lewis was advanced the sum of £322,000. The calculations clearly show that he owes money to the firm as opposed to the other way round.’