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How To Charge A Fixed Fee For A High Court Case(Claim Against Executor)

Posted: Friday, 22 March 2024 @ 07:01

In this article, we provide more information on how our firm is able to charge a fixed fee for a piece of High Court work instead of using the conventional formula of an hourly rate with an estimate. 

In this instance the work could revolve around some kind of dispute with an Executor/Trustee - e.g request for accounts/bank statements/other documents such as a Trust deed/seeking Removal of Executor(s). 

All these problems would need to be decided by a High Court Judge, if no agreement is reached.     

With respect to the ability to price for a contested set of High Court work, there are a number of factors which influence the determination of the fixed price at the outset including:

1 The ability of us to provide a fixed price is linked with how we evaluate your situation and to understand what has happened and what it is going to take to bring this matter to a positive resolution. Whether we like it or not there will be a resolution of your legal matter whatever, which will either involve -

  • The status quo continuing if you do nothing
  • You getting most/all of what you want by you/us influencing the other side or
  • This case going to Court with either or an early or late decision by the Judge who will either agree or not agree with what we are seeking to achieve

The most important factor for deciding the fixed price involves us evaluating your situation and our assessment of the legal and negotiation steps(if any) to bring this matter to a conclusion.

We have the benefit of being experienced and knowledgeable on the law so we are pretty confident that we know the base line structure as to what is going to happen on your matter. Experience does count for a lot in determining price.

2 Another factor which helps determine the price at the outset is the ability of us to use the most favourable and controllable legal and negotiation steps to move matters along for you.  In this respect there is good news as the High Court system supports a fixed fee environment for this kind of claim. This is due to the specific dynamic which relates to claims against Executors/Trustees(this case-study) which is the Court procedure known as a Part 8 Claim  where you as the Claimant need to file any written evidence on which you intend to rely at the outset of the Claim. In other words, you need to front-load your Claim for obtaining justice. This very process of front-loading your claim has the added benefit that it is easier to predict what is going to happen as you should have your game-plan covered for dealing with possible objections from the other side when you submit your documents to Court.     

The added benefit of using a Part 8 Claim within the High Court is that you have a highly efficient Court system where there is prompt access to Judges and a decision is made relatively quickly compared to using the County Court or obtaining probate; both of these latter forums have been subject to delays.  

3 There are other factors which may influence price you pay though these attach less importance to the above, but are certainly relevant - the urgency of the matter, whether there are extra parties within the case, whether mediation is appropriate, the approach taken by the other side(their lawyer), the importance of the matter to the client(all matters are important but some attach high psychological importance which may require a more conservative approach), the financial value of the Estate, the level of interaction our client will seek with us and whether additional evidence is required or may come into play. 

4 There is a potential wild card with providing a fixed price and this can lead to us providing a dual price to you. The biggest (unpredictable) dynamic which can impact a fixed price for a piece of work involving a Court dispute is if there is an early settlement. A client is not necessarily going to be totally happy if having agreed a fixed price for a fully contested Court work the case settles much earlier. 

Broadly, a case of this kind (and in fact most) may end at one of three stages:

Stage 1 Once we have written an initial letter - The other side may cave in. We/you love it when it happens but sadly, it does not always!  

Stage 2 - A particular point which can lead to a relatively early settlement is the first impact that the other side has with the Judge. From experience we have found other parties (particularly  those who do not have legal representation) can give up in the face of initial judicial intervention or may just simply ignore Court documents. These kind of Part 8 claims do tend to have some form of early interaction with a Judge and that is the kind of interaction we may encourage if it is in your interests. 

Stage 3 -The case goes to a final hearing.

To address this scenario of an Early Settlement, what we often do is provide a Dual Price which says if this case settles at X point(say at a preliminary Court appointment) we will charge you Y and if the case settles at a final hearing, we will charge Z. This caters for an early settlement and in our view represents a fair way of dealing with fixed pricing for both of us and our clients.

5 We align our tactics with our pricing.  It is not directly relevant to price but it is to outcomes, but a practical additional step to minimise risk and stress is for us to make open offers to settle on your behalf. We believe that where you are dealing with an Executor/Trustee dispute you should try to put as much as pressure as possible on the opponents by making offers to resolve your case which you want the Judge to see if the matter goes to Court.(e.g. highlighting your good approach). The added benefit of such an approach is this can lead to costs awards being awarded in your favour and protecting you financially. You may have paid for a fixed price but we will be doing our best to recover these fees back for you where we can.

6 Our firm's approach is about minimising stress and risk. The appeal of a fixed price is that it provides price certainty to the client and can lead to better interaction between the  lawyer and client. e.g The client does not have to worry about a surprise bill, he or she can call his or her lawyer up and not worry about being charged for the telephone call. It leads to consistent billing which can be done monthly. Due to certain factors a fixed price cannot always be offered to our clients (that can happen at the early stages of instruction or after a trial when an hourly rate may be more suitable) but certainly we expect to expand the level of fixed prices provided to our clients over the future as it has a lot going for it for our clients and us too.