Whenever we are asked to undertake legal work in relation to debt recovery work (and every “debt” can be claimed by the defendant to be a disputed claim), we offer a full, detailed, costs quotation, including our own time charges and the method of calculating these, as well as likely expenses needing to be incurred in the course of the proposed work if this proceeds as originally envisaged.
All charges detailed in that quotation will be subject to VAT payable in addition at the rates current from time to time as per http://www.gov.uk/vat-rates.
We do not offer one-size-fits-all costs quotations. The basis of our charging and likely total costs through to the conclusion will depend on the nature of each individual matter. Our charges may be on a time & materials basis, or on a fixed charge basis, or in appropriate cases on a contingency basis, depending on the nature of each individual matter.
Our charges are calculated by reference to then current rates, with expenses in addition. The nature and cost of expenses likely to be incurred in a claim vary depending on the nature of the claim and its progress. Purely for example, the court fees payable on issue of a claim (if we are acting for a claimant rather than a defendant) are as per http://www.gov.uk/court-fees-what-they-are.
There is no single exercise of “debt recovery”. For a claimant the exercises to seek to recover money pursuant to the claim. For a defendant the objective is usually not to pay the claimant any money pursuant to the claim. So the legal costs generated in the work very much depend upon the individual circumstances of the claim.
Thus, for example, we may offer scope of work and costing for an inward-facing analysis of a client’s legal position, together with the preparation and sending of a letter of demand or of rebuttal of an incoming letter of demand, articulating the legal and factual basis of the position projected, for a fixed charge of £350.
But if the claim proceeds beyond an initial letter, perhaps to preparation of court proceedings or a winding up petition, with the issue and service of this, proceeding to eventually trial, with witnesses including expert witnesses and disclosure of documents, then legal costs would certainly run beyond £10,000, and for a fully contested trial might be anywhere between that number and say £100,000 or £250,000 or more.
In each case legal costs can be stopped at any time by either party to the claim discontinuing its position and terminating the legal proceedings, or the parties reaching an agreed settlement of the claim. Any such discontinuance or settlement could occur in any claim at any time from the very outset through to the very end, with the amount of legal costs incurred in the proceedings being determined by how far the contested claim goes and the extent of time and materials which the parties inject into the proceedings.
The normal rule in all court proceedings is that the loser is ordered to pay a contribution towards the winner’s legal costs in an amount agreed between the parties or otherwise as assessed by the court, with as a rule of thumb that contribution being at a level of perhaps 75% of actual costs incurred. The loser therefore expects to pay this level of contribution to the winning side’s costs in addition to its own costs payable to its own solicitors.
We may offer to act for a client in “debt recovery” work on any of the bases below:
- at an agreed fixed charge for a stage or stages of the issue or proceedings;
- on a time & materials basis at hourly rates for the particular staff involved (range as at 1 July 2022 from £310 per hour at the senior level to £75 per hour at the junior level;
- on a time & materials basis at hourly rates for the particular staff involved, the level of which is dependent on the outcome of the work (discounted rates in the event of lower success);
- (in relation to work before issue of proceedings) on a full contingency basis (with our charges calculated by reference to the amount that may be recovered or paid;
- on a “conditional fee agreement” (CFA) basis (a regulated agreement providing for no-win-no-fee or no-win-discounted-fee charges);
- other basis by agreement.
Timescales from the beginning of a claim (which is the sending or receiving of a letter of claim almost all cases) through to the end of the claim vary enormously. For example a defendant receiving a letter of claim demanding payment of an alleged debt might instruct their solicitors to agree to and make the payment by return. At the other end of the spectrum a fully contested claim which goes all the way to trial might well take years to get to a final order, and that might be appealed, with a further period of perhaps a year before that appeal came on for hearing, with a possibility of a further appeal beyond that.
In our quotation letter, or by email or letter sent in parallel to or shortly after that, we will explain the projected key stages of the matter, with applicable information as to possible timescales.
Example timescales for a debt recovery claim
As a guide (but an individual claim may take much more or less than this time):
- Our initial instructions and sending out of a letter before action may take approximately 2 weeks from receipt of full instructions on the dispute.
- The letter before action would usually provide a period of 30 days to respond to the matter (as is provided for in the Pre-Action Debt Protocol) but this period can be extended if there is a request for certain documents.
- If the matter does not settle at this stage, from the proceedings being issued to a final hearing can vary wildly on the level of the debt and the particular track that proceedings are allocated to (the Small Claims Track, Fast Track and Multi-Track) A small claims track hearing would usually be listed within 26 weeks of issue of the proceedings, the fast track within 52 weeks and the multi-track within 78 to 104 weeks.
The estimates above are examples for guidance purposes only any proceedings could take a longer or shorter period than this based on factors including those listed below.
Every debt recovery dispute will differ according to the following factors:
- the level of the debt and the complexity of the case, should there for instance be a need for expert evidence;
- the involvement of a litigant in person;
- the number of witnesses and documents;
- the time taken for the court to deal with specific paperwork and the availability of Judges for the final hearing;
- the amount of opponents Debt Recovery is sought from;
- co-operation and prompt return of paperwork by yourself and the opponent/s;
- whether a counterclaim is made or contemplated;
- whether you or the opponent/s is/are capable of dealing with proceedings brought against them or whether they require a litigation friend or Court of Protection involvement;
- the number of witnesses required to give evidence for you or your opponent/s;
- any requirement for expert evidence from one or more disciplines.
Work not included in costs estimates
Costs assessment. If the matter proceeds to agreement or final hearing and a costs order is made against you or in your favour, provisional or detailed assessment of those costs might be necessary if the liability for costs cannot be agreed. Separate costs will chargeable for the work on this aspect and a separate estimate can be provided for this.
Implementation or enforcement of any order. If the matter proceeds to agreement or final hearing and an order for payment of a sum of money or transfer of a property or asset is required, a separate charge will apply. Separate costs will chargeable for the work on this aspect and a separate estimate can be provided for this.
We do not offer tax advice.
If separate tax advice is required on the receipt or disposal of any money or asset, separate advice from a qualified tax adviser will be necessary.
Our litigation staff who may be involved in “debt recovery” work include as at 1 October 2022:
Cameron Hughes (LLB, LPC, Staff Lawyer with 18 months experience of contentious legal work)
Josh Gladwin (integrated LLB and LPC (LLM)), Solicitor with experience during the last 5 years of contentious legal work)
Haiying Li (LLB, LPC, Staff Lawyer with 12 months experience of contentious legal work)
Our team engaged in litigation work including “debt recovery” work Is led by partner Robert Humphreys, a practising solicitor with more than 40 years experience of contentious legal work.