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What factors affect legal costs?

An exhaustive list of factors that can affect legal costs in a dispute or matter both generally and in particular types of case or particular cases, would be as long as the Great Wall of China, well not quite but there are factors that any diligent business involved in a dispute should be aware of. The immeasurable list of factors can make it difficult for a solicitor to forecast what a particular case or matter is likely to cost.

This in turn, can create a sense of anxiety and uncertainty for the client. Knowing how much something is going to cost or at least having a good idea of the cost is key, and the legal profession is no different. A solicitor specialising in dispute resolution will often provide an estimate as opposed to a quote (address further here) since this allows for a margin of flexibility if the fees incurred are more than what the solicitor anticipated.


That said, it is a policy of Sewell Law to provide the client with a cost and if the cost exceeds the scope of work, unless there are exceptional circumstances, we will not charge the client more than the estimate or quote. 


Below is a non-exhaustive list of factors that can affect the legal costs in the dispute:


  • The conduct of the opponent

In litigation, an experienced solicitor particularly those with intuition, are more likely to pre-empt how the opponent, their solicitor or barrister is likely to conduct their case. However, this can never be guaranteed. The solicitor does not have any control over the opponent. The approach of the opponent and/or their solicitor is almost always the main factor that affects the level of legal costs in a dispute.


For example, the opponent may be emotive;  they may fail to engage or cooperate or even participate in any attempt to settle the dispute; they or their solicitor may concern themselves with matters that are irrelevant to the issues in the case and may send an unnecessary amount of correspondence. This can even result in the solicitor being accused of 'cost building'. 

The opponent may intimate a counter claim, not previously activated by the client. 


  • Complexity


The more complex the case, in terms of law and facts and evidence, the more costly it is likely to be. Complexity usually means that more time is required in terms of understanding the law, navigating the facts and dealing with the evidence. Complex or technical cases will often require the input of expert evidence. For example, in a claim relating to a faulty jet engine, the solicitor may not know much about jet engines but to serve the clients best interests, and in order to advance the case, it may be necessary to instruct an expert in jet engines. Judges are no different and they too may require the assistance of an expert to help them understand the complexities.


  • Documents


The amount of documentary evidence differs in every case. There are simple cases which may have a lot of documents and there are complex cases that may have very few. However, if the solicitor is required to consider a large volume of documents and information, not least to determine what is relevant and what is not, this will have an impact on the level of legal costs.

  • Client Input

A point often overlooked and the phrase 'help us to help you' comes in to the equation. A client who has already unearthed the documents relevant to the case and even provided a detailed written account of the events leading to the dispute (it does happen), will often save the the solicitor time and therefore cost in dealing with the initial stages of the case. 


  • Claim Value


A claim for money is usually dealt with differently depending on the value. This is mainly because if the claim exceeds a certain value, it could be the subject of a different procedure within the Civil Procedure Rules or even subject to the jurisdiction of a higher Court. 

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