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Ask Buachaill Your Own Question
Buachaill, Lawyer
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 10539
Experience:  Barrister 17 years experience
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In July 2010

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In July 2010 I retained a solicitor regarding debt collection and other matters pertaining to the same individual. It was March 2011 when the advice of counsel was sent to me via email. This email also contained a Section 68 letter (8 months on when the solicitor's bill was standing at circa €4,000 and the case was quite advanced). Unfortunately, I was unable to open the attachments on the email but I do not dispute that the Section 68 letter was attached even though I was unaware of it.  The case is still at the Plenary stage.  In August 2012 I commented via email that I was not being kept up to date, following a High Court Motion of which I was not made aware of the outcome for several days. In September, the solicitor in the firm who had taken over my case said they were no longer willing to act for me because of this comment. I then attempted to engage another solicitor but could not do so as the original firm insisted on €5,000 up front and an undertaking on stage payments for the remainder (the total bill was over €22,000). I had already paid them €6,000. I could not afford to pay the proposed new solicitor's retainer in addition to this. This solicitor stated that it was the most bizarre letter they had ever seen. I requested a breakdown of solicitor/own client and party and party costs and was told this didn't apply as we had never discussed these costs. The invoice also included two days fees for preparing the file for handover - they terminated the retainer and I was shocked that they would charge me for this. Later on in September I asked the solicitor to reconsider and she said that if she did so, I could not be 'berating' her for being late coming back to me. In the 3rd week of October, I received an email from the original solicitor in the firm saying that he would seek advice to see if he could act for me, as he had notified the barrister that he was no longer involved in the case, and would only consider it on receipt of €5,000. I replied stating that I looked forward to hearing his answer and would pay him the €5,000. In March 2013 (5 months on), after I emailed and telephoned his office several times he emailed me to say they would not act for me and said he was consulting his own solicitor if he did not receive a minimum of €5,000 and an undertaking on the remaining fees immediately. I replied immediately and queried several aspects of the professional advice I had been given and the fees for preparing the file. I also paid €2,500 (all I could afford at the time). I have received no response to date regarding my queries. In April, I reached agreement with the Defendant and requested that, as the firm was still on record, that they please issue a Notice of Discontinuance. Two months later, in mid June, the solicitor replied saying that as he was not involved in the settlement and I was essentially now representing myself, he was not prepared to issue the notice. He attached a Notice of Discharge for me to send to the High Court so his firm could be taken off record and his account for nearly €14,000.They are still on record in the case. I am left in limbo as I do not have the money to retain a new solicitor and pay what I consider to be excessive fees. I am certainly not qualified to represent myself. Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in anticipation.

1. At the outset, you need to realise that you cannot have it every way. Either you have the money to pay a solicitor to represent you, or else, you represent yourself. So you are better enter the Notice of Discharge and move on, one way or another. Secondly, you should also realise that once a firm of solicitors decide to no longer represent you, they cannot demand money before transferring the file in such a way as to embarass you in your litigation. So all this demanding of money by the solicitor before transferring the file was unlawful and not based on a correct view of the law, as the solicitor had excused himself from representing you further in the litigation.
2. At this stage as you have reached agreement yourself with the Defendant, you effectively have already represented yourself. All that needs to be done now is the for Notice of Discharge to be entered and the legal action struck out with whatever order as to costs you have agreed with the Defendant.
3. In relation to the outstanding fees, you should utilise either the process of taxation (expensive) or the free Law Society jurisdiction over "excessive fees" under the 1994 Solicitors Amendment Act, 1994, to have the amounts you allegedly owe lowered. Go to where you will find details of how to initiate the "excessive fees" jurisdiction. Use it to deal with this solicitor's outstanding fees, before he sues you and it has gone too far to have them lowered.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for replying! The debt has not been satisfied and I did not receive repayment - merely a verbal promise that it would be repaid when/if the Defendant is in a position to do. How would I/ Should I have the Terms of Settlement made an order of The Court? Or should I go with the Notice of Discharge (simpler as I am not in the legal profession) and get a separate agreement notarised? Also why did the firm remain on record? It took 5 months for them to answer my request to remain with my case and two months to answer my request that they issue the Notice of Discharge when coming off record. During this time, the Defendant transferred his assets to another party. The case was at Plenary Stage since 2011. I was also given advice that I now know was incorrect and would have acted differently had I been aware that this was the case. Should I RATE your answer now or does this close the thread? Thanks again, A.

4. Firstly, you need to get the Terms of settlement signed in order to make them a rule of court. So you should do up terms of settlement with the Defendant and you both should sign them. Then you can get them ruled by the court and made an order of the court whereby they will remain on file. Secondly, if you were given incorrect advice, then you can sue the solicitor for negligence, particularly if you can show this has caused you loss. It might also ward off a claim for fees. Finally, it is a matter of guesswork why the firm remained on record. However, this usually occurs where the firm is hoping that their fees will be paid before some other firm represents you, or in order that an agreement can be made whereby their fees will be paid as part of some other firm coming on record.
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you - I shall proceed as you advised. All the very best. A.