Area of law: Employment
Complaint reason(s): Delay, costs information deficient, costs excessive, failure to advise
Remedy: To reduce the bill by £150
Outcome: Ombudsman decision rejected by complainant
Mr S went to the firm about an employment matter. He felt he had been unfairly dismissed by his employer and went to the firm to see what his chances of success would be in a claim against them. The firm initially advised that they thought he had 50/50 chance, but would need to speak to a barrister before they could make a decision on whether to pursue it. They set out their hourly rate, but said they couldn’t give a realistic estimate of costs at that time.
The firm spoke to a barrister’s chambers, who said all of their barristers were busy, but they would be in touch when someone became available. It took over a month before one became free. Mr S was getting restless as several months had passed and he still hadn’t been told what his chances of success would be. It was finally agreed the barrister would work on the basis of four hours of work, at £90 per hour.
The barrister said that they weren’t too positive about Mr S’s chances of success, but he wanted to go ahead anyway. The other side said they were willing to negotiate a settlement, so Mr S proposed a figure of £10,000. The barrister thought that this was a bit optimistic, and said he would be lucky to get any more than £7,500. Mr S was disappointed but forged ahead, setting out his losses to be put to the other side. They questioned his losses, and it was evident that there had been some confusion on the part of Mr S’s firm. This was rectified, and negotiations continued. Eventually they settled at £5,000.
Mr S complained to the firm, feeling they had not given him enough information about costs, had delayed, and had included errors in the paperwork. While the firm did not agree with Mr S’s complaint, they did offer to reduce his bill by £150. Mr S was not convinced.
When we investigated the matter, we couldn’t see any evidence of the firm’s delays. Whilst there was a delay in obtaining the barrister’s opinion, this was due to backlog at the chambers, and the firm had chased this up. We saw that there had been some errors in the losses drawn up by the firm, but we couldn’t see that this had any impact upon the outcome of Mr S’s claim. We did, however, think the firm should have provided an estimate of costs to Mr S, and for this reason upheld the firm’s offer to reduce the bill by £150.