Previously we produced a brief article on how to go about changing solicitors (http://www.astonknightsolicitors.co.uk/news/change-solicitor/).
Recently we’ve been instructed by a number of clients who want to transfer from their current firm to Aston Knight Solicitors. On a number of occasions the client has been from one of the larger personal injury firms advertised on TV etc, who we do not name for professional reasons.
Despite many of these firms being large and well publicised there appears to be a common trick/misunderstanding of the law rearing its head, often posing as a barrier to what should be a simple process of switching from one law firm to another.
The pattern goes something like this
- The law firm perhaps misses something important and arrives at the view the client does not have a good case;
- They then advise the client they don’t have a case and close their file;
- The client believes something has been missed and/or wishes to seek a second opinion;
- The new firm writes to the previous firm to request their file of papers.
Now, step 5 should consist of the previous firm sending the file of papers to the new firm without delay (subject to any retrieval from storage or other permitted costs they may be entitled to charge the new firm), following which the new firm can review the file and press on.
However, a worrying trend has emerged being that the previous firm, perhaps for financial gain, refuses to release the file of papers unless the new firm agrees to accept legal responsibility on the client’s part for the previous firm’s costs. The previous firm’s costs could include their professional fees, the cost of expert reports, court fees paid etc.
What the previous firm wants of course is for the money they spent, which they had resigned themselves to losing when they closed their file, to be once again legally recoverable by being added on to the new solicitors’ bill if the case eventually wins.
The reason for this is that the Defendant, if the case wins, has to pay the Claimant’s legal costs (in no-win-no-fee agreements if the Claimant loses the costs are generally cancelled).
If a law firm has not closed their file, or provided negative advice, their costs remain payable, so if the client switches to another law firm the new firm has to promise to add their costs to their bill if they win, which allows the client to switch law firms without having to pay anything, as any costs payable carry over to the new law firm.
However, if a law firm closes their file because they do not believe the client has a good case, in no-win-no-fee case, the fees are cancelled, so the client then walks away owing nothing to the law firm. It follows that if the client owes the previous law firm nothing, there is no need for any new law firm to promise to be responsible for their fees.
Although all solicitors should know this, it is quite worrying to see that many in fact do not and instead seek to hold on to the file unfairly, which can then delay progression of the case with the new solicitors.
Aston Knight Solicitors take on many cases from other law firms, including many of the larger well-known personal injury firms, and always take a robust approach to ensure the file transfer happens quickly and without any stress or cost to the client.
Aston Knight Solicitors are always happy to confidentially discuss a potential case transfer and any concerns you may have about this.
Please feel free to contact us on 0161 447 9191 or firstname.lastname@example.org.