A costs judge has ordered a law firm to resubmit its final bill after it failed to show how the original invoice was created.
Master Gordon-Saker said Wycombe firm Allan Janes LLP had rendered invoices for substantial sums ‘without providing any proper particulars of the work undertaken’.
The firm had provided advice to Dr Mehrdad Rahimian and his company Scandia Care Limited from September 2011 and estimated that its costs would be between £15,000 and £25,000.
Up to July 2014 the firm submitted a total of 22 invoices, but Rahimian said just three were accompanied by a narrative explaining the work that had been done.
The total charge was £76,153, which the clients paid in full to secure the release of papers in underlying litigation.
Allan Janes said the invoices it delivered were ‘chapters culminating in a final bill’. But Gordon-Saker, sitting in the High Court (Senior Courts Costs Office), said at face value the last invoice could not be described as a final bill.
‘A bill must contain sufficient information to enable the client to obtain advice as to its detailed assessment,’ said the judge.
‘Of the 22 invoices delivered in the present case, only the last three contained any information about the work that had been done. The last three invoices did not contain any details of the work done in the periods covered by the first 19 invoices.’
Mark Carlisle, from Sheffield firm Deep Blue Costs, which represented Rahimian, said the ruling means none of the bills delivered up to 2014 could be considered statute bills.
‘It is an important warning to solicitors that when billing, clients should be given sufficient information to enable them to take advice on whether or not to seek assessment under the Solicitors Act,’ said Carlisle.
‘In this case the client had been presented with a series of confusing interim bills as the case progressed. Had the court found that any of them were interim statute bills, or that they should be treated as a series of bills culminating in a final statute bill dated as per the last of the series, then the client would have been out of time for assessment.’