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James Bell: The Purpose of Conditional Fee Agreements

By Principal Lawyer, Clinical Negligence

I have been enjoying the BBC series, "See you in Court". The programme follows the progress of a number of famous and not so famous who have been upset by various media stories. Lembit Opik, Sheryl gascoigne, Uri Gellar have all featured together in this series, together with the cream of Britsh libel lawyers.

Those libel lawyers have not come out of this series particularly well, especially in relation to their costs. In one episode Sheryl Gascoigne's lawyer told her that even if she won she would only recover 65% of her costs, leaving a shortfall on her estimated costs of £200,000. The reason stated to Sheryl was that the judge would only award costs on the standard basis and not on an indemnity basis. Sheryl seemed surprised at this news. The producers cut the scene at that point and the lawyer was not grilled by the programme makers as to how it could be that 35% of his work would be disallowed by the Costs Office and yet still charged to the client.  Also, we did not see that Sheryl was advised by her lawyer that she had the right to have her own solicitor's costs assessed by a Judge or the Law Society.

One other case featured the Trustees of the The North London Central Mosque who were seeking damages from the Policy Exchange think tank. Midway through the claim the names of the Claimant's on the Claim form had to be amended as the Claimant on the claim form was not a "legal entity" that could sue for libel. This caused numerous days in the High Court and Court of Appeal as M'Learned Friends managed to turn this issue into 2 days in court. Ultimately the case had to be withdrawn with a costs order being paid by the Trustees of of the NLCM for £20,000.

In both cases I wondered about the costs advice given to these clients. As clinical negligence lawyers undertaking most of our work on a "no win no fee basis" (sometimes called  CFA or conditonal fee basis) we do not enter into litigation without arranging After the Event (ATE) cover which fully protects our clients if they lose their case. Also, we offer a 100% guarantee that client's will receive 100% of their damages with no deductions.

James Bell is a Principal Lawyer in the Slater and Gordon clinical negligence team. If you or a member of your family have a clinical negligence enquiry please call our expert clinical negligence solicitors on 0800 916 9049, fill in our short online claim form and one of our specialist clinical negligence team will be in touch.