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Lawyers won't pay

A firm of lawyers contacted me for information on one of my newly acquired clients. I didn't have any of the information on the client at that point (I still don't have most of it) but managed to put together most of the information they requested. Initially they wanted a P&L but as that wasn't available they said they'd be satisfied with an income figure and a fuel expenses figure.

I sent them an invoice and followed it up with a call when it became overdue. They say they won't pay. They reckon they don't have to for the following reasons:

 - the information supplied was not exactly as requested (ie it wasn't a P&L)

 - we did not discuss charges beforehand so no contract was entered into

 - the charge is too high for a simple "photocopying job" (which it wasn't)

The invoice is only for £50 but I'm feeling riled because they have now written me a letter that states that they won't pay any amount for the work and threatens to report me to my regulatory body should I attempt to pursue them for payment. I don't care about the threat (I'm pretty certain I haven't done anything wrong plus I know that my institute don't deal with disputes around fees) but I do care about being paid for work that I have done.

I had a chat with some solicitors about sending this firm a legal letter informing them that failure to pay will result in legal proceedings. They wanted at least £50 for something that will take them under 20 minutes to sort out so I don't think my charge is unreasonable at all. I spent more time than that on the work and doing the work meant that I couldn't do anything more lucrative.

I run a fairly new, single-handed practice and don't have much experience with this sort of thing. Do you think I should bother going for a CCJ or just put this down to experience?

Thank you for your thoughts

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charge the client direct

the lawyers would only rebill him anyway

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Why not report them to THEIR regulatory body.

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exactly

like they wouldnt have charged you or the client ifd it had been the other way round - yea

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unless

you want to have some fun and report them to the LS chalk it up and move on...lifes too short for £50...

In future just make sure that you assess the input such things will require and either agree the fee directly with them or with the client ... it gets easier when the client becomes long standing and the trust is inherent...

Either way presumably you had to contact the client for authority to disclose so they are aware that you did this work so I would just add it to their bill instead and explain that the bloodsucking leeches wouldn't cough up...

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cmon..

you provided two figures for them, it probably took you longer to raise the invoice!

if you called them and asked for a copy of a trust deed or title deed, would you expect to get an invoice.  No way!

 

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Been there

I have had a similiar situation. I did not think my opinion of lawyers could get any lower but I was surprised.

In my case, the lawyers asked for historical financial information on an ex-client. I could not contact my ex-client regarding this matter so I did nothing other than write to the firm to explain I was waiting for authorisation.

I received a call from a particularly unpleasant creature who demanded that I respond immediately and threatened to report me to ICAS in the first instance and with various dire legal threats thereafter. They specifically stated they would not pay anything for this work other than reasonable charges for photcopying - my explanation that what they required was not a case of copying fell on deaf ears.

I refused to believe that I could be forced to work for nothing but was wary and so had a few later nights with my rule book.

In the end, I wrote back to the firm pointing out that I had complied with the wishes of their first request in a timely manner but that I would not supply anything further without payment at my usual rates and never heard anything further.

Best of luck.

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Who is the client?

Unless I'm missing something I don't think you have a legal leg to stand on as far as invoicing the lawyers is concerned.  They are not your client and, as they say, you did not agree terms with them before doing the work.  If however you did regard them as the client, did you carry out AML checks? 

All in all I think your Reg Body would have some sympathy with the firm's stance and your lack of proper procedure.

If however, as was mentioned above, your real client, knew you were doing this and authorised the release of info then, subject to you having agreed terms with him/her/them, you should, as others have suggested, send them the bill.

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Some more details

Thank you all for your advice and comments. I did speak to the client to get authorisation but didn't discuss charges with either the client or the lawyers. I think I'll chalk this one up to experience because £50 isn't worth my extra time. I'll also send a letter to the Law Society outlining the problem because I'd like to see how the lawyers react.

Our shared client is a London cabbie. He ended up sending me some paperwork and I totted up the figures for his fuel expenses myself. This certainly wasn't many hours of work but wasn't a 5 minute photocopying job either.

The lawyers managed to lose my first letter to them so I sent a second one but didn't charge for that as it was a photocopying job.

I genuiniely thought £50 was a fair amount for my time. Oh well...

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Lesson learned..

Always agree fees before carrying out work for third parties.

Get agreement in writing.

Don't presume that solicitors will part with small sums of money.  They are often the hardest to get to paid by.

That said, I wouldn't write it off either.  I would write them a letter stating that your standard charge is £50 for this work, that you appreciate that you didn't scope this out but assumed that the charge was fair and in line with market expectations.  Furthermore, time was of the essence so you got on with the task in hand rather than delay matters . Say a gesture of goodwill you will accept £40 in full and final settlement.

Minimal amount involved but sometimes it's the principle - I have written off larger sums before but actively pursued similar.  You can guarantee that THEY wouldn have charged YOU for every second had the roles been reversed.

 

 

 

 

 

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I would agree with the above about moving on.

Its a pain, but easily done.

If £50 is worth a snotty letter you are not busy enough.

Will take you half an hour to draft it, not to mention getting het up about it.  Mention it casually to the cabby about them being tight fisted so and so's and he might send you a gift.....

 

 

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Photocopying?

"They specifically stated they would not pay anything for this work other than reasonable charges for photcopying"

Have you seen how much those greedy bar stewards charge for photocopying???

I hate solicitors!

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Report them

 Respond by threatening to report them to the SRA, In future get Lawyers to pay upfront!

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lawyers

are a really strange breed... appears to me that the worst and most obnoxious ones tend to be of the older generation but some of them generally can be so far up their own wotsit that they dissapear under the weight of their own pomposity....

Many years ago a lovely old partner of mine heard that some little upstart lawyer had mercilessly abused a member of our staff ....he jumped in his car and confronted the guy face to face read him his fortune whereupon the guy was reduced to a quivering wreck wittering on about how stressed he was with his divorce etc etc...playground bullies... 

 

 

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Lesson learnt

I've certainly learnt my lesson and I'm glad to have learnt it early on. I have asked them which regulatory body they are a member of and told them that I will be making a formal complaint regarding their behaviour. Whatever happens next doesn't really bother me anymore (at least I don't feel as angry as I did) as I know there are bigger and better things to do with my time.

Just FYI, the law firm is engaged in getting compensation for accidents and then take a large chunk of the compensation. My wife (who is a human rights lawyer) calls it "vulture law"

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Just move on

I once phoned a firm of solicitors and asked how much they would charge to handle a case for me. The young lady I was passed to was obviously an inexperienced solicitor as she had to refer the matter to someone more senior before she could formulate an opinion on how much they would charge. I had three phone calls later that afternoon eleciting more information on the matter. 

They finally gave me an estimate that was far higher than I envisaged so I declined to use them. They decided to to sue me for their costs in providing me with an estimate. Their case against me proceeded to a hearing. The District Judge found that I had not entered into a contract with them and that I was not liable for the charge they tried to collect. 

It wasn't as clear cut as I thought because he did deliberate on whether they should invoice me because they had to fulfill a duty of care towards me even though it was before a contract was formed. 

 

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I suppose someone has to stand up for the lawyers ...

... although frankly, their response is a bit bizarre.  It's a whole lot simpler: you're billing the wrong person.   

The person you bill (if you can) is the mutual client, the work you did was for his benefit.  It wasn't for his lawyers' benefit.  They asked your mutual client for some information, he told them to get it from you (how else would they know who to get the information from?).  It's the same as if he'd asked you for the information directly, so he could pass it on to the lawyers.

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