The cost of professional services can often be a decisive factor when any business or consumer seeks advice. Whether that be legal, or business related.
The legal profession has had to adapt to a changing landscape. The traditional hourly rate being replaced in some cases by fixed fees. Sophisticated commercial clients demand their lawyers charge lower fees and fixed rates in return for bulk instructions. Consumers shop around and often but not always seek to instruct lawyers by reference to price.
Many clients believe that in order to get the right result or the best advice, only a multinational law firm practicing from the City can deliver. The fact is that a regional firm can offer the specialist expertise they need, at significantly lower costs.
A Judge’s observations in a recent High Court case
A recent High Court case will undoubtedly cause some to rethink their strategy. The facts are immaterial for this article, suffice to say that it was a significant commercial case involving an injunction and a number of applications. The successful party was seeking to obtain its costs and the Court was asked to consider the level of those costs.
Some of the Judge’s observations in that case make enlightened reading. He noted:
- In respect of the party seeking to recover their legal costs, no fewer than nine lawyers were involved, of whom six had charged at hourly rates of over £700 (the top rate being £946). A trainee was charged out at £28
- A very high proportion of the work was done by the most expensive lawyers charging at £900 / £946 an hour.The Judge considered that in terms of efficient use of resources, the amount of work done by the lawyers seemed disproportionately large.
- It was seldom reasonable (particularly for hearings where there were no witness’ giving evidence) to claim the costs of attendance by more than two solicitors.
Whilst this was of course a complex commercial case requiring teams of lawyers the successful party had it costs scrutinised carefully by the Court.
One observation by the Judge in this case is a point that commercial and consumer clients alike should consider very carefully.
“From my experience of assessing costs and reviewing cost statements and budgets in complex cases in the Commercial Court, competent representation can be obtained at much lower rates, in the region of around half the hourly rates paid in this case.”