In respect of this work, it will primarily be charged for on an hourly rate of £250 per hour plus VAT. We would expect client appointments, the drafting of key documents and the appearances at Tribunal to be undertaken by a Solicitor at Thomson & Bancks and in most cases, that will be dealt with by Geoffrey Ellis, an experienced Solicitor, or occasionally by Paul Johnson who is a Partner in the Firm.
We routinely agree with clients to unbundle our services, by which we mean to do specific pieces of work for fees that are agreed as we go along. These remain fundamentally a reflection of the time that we spend on the case, meaning that if a task is expected to take two hours, we would typically charge £450 plus VAT. However, by giving clients an assurance that we will not carry out work beyond a certain fee without first accounting to the client and seeking permission to continue, we hope that clients can have some confidence that they are not giving to their Solicitor an entirely blank cheque regarding how much time to spend and how much money to spend in pursuit of their case.
The complexity of cases varies a great deal. Cases with very similar facts may, on one occasion, achieve a settlement within a mere two or three hours of work, while other cases may proceed all the way to a Tribunal Hearing with witnesses, by which time they may have consumed at least forty hours of work (the equivalent of £10,000 plus VAT). These figures are not maximum or minimum figures, but given for some general guidance on the scope of the commitment that either an employer or an employee might need to make in given circumstances. As a case proceeds, we will, of course, express our views on the likelihood of a successful outcome and our anticipated costs.
Disbursements are the name given to the expenses which are paid out by Solicitors on behalf of a client, such as court fees and travel costs. During the course of the last ten years, there have been times when no fees were charged by the Employment Tribunal to issue a claim and at other times, substantial fees have been charged, which have controversially been overturned by the Courts. This is not to say the Governments in the future will not impose some fees or charges payable to the tribunal system whenever cases are issued or hearings are held. If we become aware of any fees affecting a particular case, we will endeavour to advise the client as soon as possible.
It is still appropriate in cases that are likely to go to Tribunal for the Claimant to first contact ACAS and to seek to participate in early conciliation. Very often, we will already have been involved with a client who is in dispute with their employer or with an employer who has had difficulties with the termination of employment of an employee. There may, therefore, be charges for those initial consultations and the drafting of letters.
Where a particularly significant piece of work is envisaged, such as the issuing of a claim or the defending of a claim, it is very common for us to ask our client to make a payment on account (typically £2,000) in anticipation that some 5-10 hours of work is about to be incurred.
In connection with employment law work, Thomson & Bancks does not undertake that work at the current time on a “no win, no fee” conditional fee agreement basis. Where there are opportunities for us to claim legal fees against an opponent in proceedings, these will be taken, but the normal rule in the Employment Tribunal is not to award legal costs in favour of one party against the other, unless there are exceptional circumstances (such as a case lacking any merits whatsoever). No Court or Tribunal proceedings are entirely without risk and occasionally there will be decisions that appear to fly in the face of the evidence or things that are said or done by witnesses that have a profound effect on the outcome of the case. Our approach with both employees and employers is, therefore, to become involved while there might still be an opportunity to resolve the dispute without turning to a Tribunal (or issuing a money claim to a Court). We may often be coaching our clients from the side lines without being directly involved in a dispute while the parties are still talking to each other. We will then expect to take stock with the client on the merits of their case and discuss with them the possibility of reaching a settlement, as well as what would be involved in the conduct and funding of a dispute in the Employment Tribunal or the County Court.
In the light of the explanation above, we do not do Tribunal cases for a fixed fee or approach our clients on the basis that “one size fits all”. If we can delegate to senior secretarial staff and clerks certain tasks which otherwise would have fallen on a Solicitor but which they can carry out under supervision, there may be opportunity to keep fees to a minimum (their charges will be not less than £100 per hour plus VAT). A Solicitor may still charge for the supervision and any other work done personally. If savings are possible, we will pass them on to the client by only charging for the work done at the hourly rate of the individual carrying out the work.
Exceptional cases will arise from time to time which involve significant value or reputation, or require extra commitment of time and resources. We, therefore, cannot put an upper figure on the cost that might be spent fighting such cases, but such expenditure is not made by accident or without reference to the client. Only where, having taken advice, the client considers that they wish to incur costs with Thomson & Bancks, we incur higher levels of cost. On occasion, it may be necessary to employ the services of a Barrister. Our professional obligations require that we notify you of an anticipated fee for a Barrister and ask you to make a payment on account to us to ensure that the fee is covered in advance. The likely fee to instruct a Barrister will depend upon whether the Barrister is giving only a written advice, or is meeting the client in conference, or is appearing at a hearing as an advocate. Consequently, typical fees would range between £750 and £7,500 depending upon the work to be undertaken. Our usual practice is to discuss the Barrister’s fee with their clerk before the fee is incurred and to ensure that we are acting in accordance with the wishes of our client.
If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact us for a free, no obligation enquiry.