Outstanding fees: fee chasing and collection
If your fees are seriously delayed your first port of call is your clerks or fee clerk. They will usually manage the chasing of outstanding fees for you.
Where work is undertaken on contractual terms and solicitors refuse or fail to pay, the only remedy is to initiate court proceedings for recovery of the debt. The Bar Council’s website gives more information. See http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/practice-ethics/professional-practice-and-ethics/contractual-terms/.
If you have a fee outstanding you can make a complaint to the Bar Council if:
- You have obtained judgment for the fees against the solicitor, or
- The solicitor has not paid a joint tribunal (see below) or arbitration award in respect of your fees.
In such cases the Bar Council will attempt to recover the fees outstanding on your behalf, and if it fails will register the solicitor on its List of Defaulting Solicitors and other Authorised Persons. See http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/supporting-the-bar/fees-collection/list-of-defaulting-solicitors/.
There are a few remaining disputes relating to payment for work done on non-contractual terms prior to January 2013. The circumstances in which the Bar Council can now assist in these cases are very limited. See generally http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/supporting-the-bar/fees-collection/.
If the problem is not the payment of fees, but the amount due to be paid, you may be able to get help through the Joint Tribunal, a service operated by the Bar Council in conjunction with the Law Society for resolving fee disputes between barristers and solicitors. This can be invoked whether the barrister is working on contractual terms or not. See link here: http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/supporting-the-bar/fees-collection/joint-tribunal-service/.
- There is no charge to either the barrister or solicitor for using the Joint Tribunal process.
- To commence a Joint Tribunal, the barrister should send an email to JointTribunals@BarCouncil.org.uk asking for a tribunal, attaching a copy of the fee note in dispute. See also the Joint Tribunal Standing Orders at http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/9034/fees5.pdf.
- Where the Joint Tribunal makes an award it must be settled within 14 days. Any decision of the Joint Tribunal is final and there is no appeal process. Failure to comply with the award will lead to the solicitor concerned being entered on the Bar Council’s List of Defaulting Solicitors (see below) and reported to the SRA, who will endeavour to ensure that the award is honoured.
Accepting instructions from defaulting solicitors
Barristers are not required to refuse instructions from solicitors on the list, but may choose whether or not to accept instructions from them. The BSB Handbook specifically provides that the Cab Rank Rule (rC29) does not apply if the professional client “represents, in your reasonable opinion, an unacceptable credit risk” (rC30.7).
A barrister is always entitled to ask for payment to be made in advance of accepting instructions. If you have done so, and the fees have not been paid, you are under no obligation to take the work (rC30.9.b).
For information to assist barristers and Chambers to ascertain if a firm may be deemed an ‘unacceptable credit risk’, see http://www.barcouncil.org.uk/supporting-the-bar/fees-collection/list-of-defaulting-solicitors/.