Here we go again. In classic Daily Mail-style, out come the stories – which we are expected to treat as typical – of solicitors charging £4,000 for photocopying or overcharging by £30,000. Just like the single mother with 13 children.
I am a typical high street family lawyer. I have never seen a bill that high, let alone overcharged by that amount. Maybe things are different in the home counties but I suspect these cases are as rare as hens’ teeth.
Of course clients want a fixed price. Most of us provide that where we can, but it is impossible in many cases to know whether a case will be resolved easily or only after protracted litigation. We should keep the client informed of rising costs and are rightly criticised if we do not, but that does not give the client what they really want – that is, a fixed price.
Now we are reminded that the new, big players will provide that and that they have the deep pockets necessary to do so. Let it be clearly understood, though, that fixed price means one very important thing. It will be ‘swings and roundabouts’ so that some clients will pay more for their case than it actually costs, to subsidise others. That is the essence of fixed price, where the work done is variable. If that is explained to clients they may not be as keen on a fixed price as imagined.
Now perhaps we can concern ourselves with the real problem of the moment – the imminent removal of public funding from family law. In terms of client dissatisfaction: ‘We ain’t seen nothing yet’.
Ken Pearson, Blight Skinnard, Saltash, Cornwall