Legal costs

We often act under a no-win no-fee agreement.  These are dealt with here but we recommend reading the information below first. Ultimately our first goal is to ensure that if you lose that you pay nothing.  This allows peace of mind.

Solicitor costs

Anyone who uses a solicitor pays for the service they receive.  The solicitor charges are called “profit costs”.

Profit costs are normally expressed as an hourly rate.  That rate has to pay for all of the expenses of a firm including wages, rent, stationery, insurance and so on. 

The normal principle in litigated cases is that “the loser pays”.  This means that whoever has lost the case pays the winner their legal fees. This is called “the indemnity principle”.  The defendant does not have to pay all of the legal costs, only those that are incurred between the two parties.  

For example, in injury and medical negligence claims if the person making the claim wins, the defendant pays the claimant’s legal fees on top of any compensation. 

The solicitor is allowed to charge the claimant for the costs that have not been recovered from the defendant. This means it is important to be economical in how a claim is dealt.  For example, if a claimant fails to respond and has to be chased again and again it cannot be correct that the defendant should pay for the work done chasing them.

Some cases involve fixed costs, and what that means is that the sum that the defendant has to pay is fixed no matter how much work is done.  The fixed sums are low so again it is vital to be economical in the claim because it is easy for the costs to exceed the fixed sums that are received.

Claimants (and clients generally) have the right to have their legal fees assessed if they think they are unreasonable, and this right is contained in the Solicitors Act 1974.

If you agree to pay for a claim privately then you pay for the work done, win or lose.

Disbursements

These are the expenses of a claim.  Normally they include expert and court fees but other fees can be incurred including fees for setting costs budgets.  These are not paid to the solicitor but to the person, company or whoever is providing the service.

The disbursements can often exceed the solicitor costs.  For example, in a medical negligence claim (see the explanation about these types of cases on its own page) you may need separate experts to deal with breach of duty, causation and damage.

An example might be a pressure sore case needing a nursing expert (breach), a Tissue Viability Nurse (causation) and a plastic surgeon (damage).  If such a case went to a 3-day trial, and all 3 experts were needed, the fees for the experts alone would be considerable.

Court fees can range from around £115 to £10,000 for the claim to be started, plus a trial fee.  The actual fees depend on the value and/or complexity of the claim.

Barrister fees

Barristers are extremely useful in cases that we deal with.  We often do not need to instruct them, but if the case is particularly complex or high value it is useful to have a second opinion, not least because we will be relying on someone to represent you at any trial and involving them early helps the case run more smoothly.

We mostly instruct barristers under a no-win no-fee agreement but the fees will be for advice, conferences, drafting of complex documents and possibly even representation at the trial itself.

As with disbursements, the barrister’s fees can be a large proportion of any overall legal costs.

Defendant costs

For any cases not involving an injury, the loser pays.


Since April 2013 injury and medical negligence claims have the benefit of Qualified One-way Costs Shifting (QOCS).

QOCS means that if a claimant loses their claim, the court will make an order that the claimant must pay the defendant their costs, but this order cannot be enforced.  In practice this means that the claimant does not pay those costs.

This seems a bit strange but the reason is that the court may allow the defendant to enforce the costs order depending on the circumstances of the case and what has gone on.

QOCS can also be put to one side in certain circumstances, for example if the case is fraudulent, it never had any real merit or perhaps where the claimant’s conduct in the case is so bad that the defendant can recover any costs that have been wasted because of that conduct.

We have not explained about this at length because we will advise at any point if a potential costs order could be enforced.

©2020 by Bentley Solicitors Ltd