Costs are often and understandably the most important concern for individuals/ residents’ groups/ NGOs looking to instruct solicitors.
We offer a free of charge 30 minute telephone consultation with one of our lawyers so that you can discuss your case with us without obligation.
Paying for your own costs
First, there is the issue of how do you pay for your own lawyer’s costs.
A key priority for individuals and local residents who privately fund their cases is certainty about costs. At Harrison Grant, we will carefully assess your requirements and provide you with an estimate of costs. We will regularly advise you of progress in your case, with frequent cost updates, and we will immediately let you know if we have to revise our estimate.
We can offer a variety of payment options depending on the type of case:
- Payment of our costs at an agreed hourly rate with an agreed estimate or cap on hours.
- A fixed fee arrangement so you can be sure that regardless of the outcome of your case, you will not pay more than the agreed fee.
- Conditional Fee Agreements (“CFA”) “No-Win, No-Fee” or “hybrid” CFA.
We sometimes take on cases on a conditional fee basis (known as “no-win, no-fee”). This means that you will only have to pay our fees if you win your case (and these are likely to be recoverable in any event from your opponent). If you lose your case you do not have to pay our fees (other than disbursements such as court fees, photocopying and travel), although you might be liable for your opponent’s costs (see paying for your opponent’s costs below).
If we take on a case on a hybrid CFA, if you lose you pay something like only half our normal fees (depending on what is agreed in the hybrid CFA) and if you win then you have to pay the additional half of our fees, but we will seek to recover all the fees from your opponent.
Crowdfunding for your case via various well known websites is now a really viable way of raising a substantial part if not all of your costs. We have experience of many cases that have been funded in part or all by crowdfunding and we can give you more details about this when we speak to you.
- Legal insurance
Before the event (“BTE”) legal insurance
a) Some household insurance policies and also some motor insurance or business policies offer cover for legal costs but you have to act quickly on making a claim as most policies require notification of the claim within a set time scale. It is always a good idea to look through any insurance policies you hold to see if they provide cover for the legal advice you require. If you are unclear about any of the terms or provisions in your policy, our solicitors would be happy to review this with you during an initial consultation.
After the event legal insurance (“ATE”)
b) ATE insurance may be available in some circumstances, so that you can pay a premium for insurance that will cover you for a certain sum in relation to the other side’s costs. ATE insurance can be expensive and difficult to obtain, but this should be considered in some cases, particularly private nuisance actions.
- “Pro bono” (free of charge)
In very exceptional cases, we may agree to act for you free of charge.
Paying for your opponents’ costs
You will not be liable for your opponents’ costs at the ‘pre-action’ stage i.e. where you engage in pre-action correspondence as this is designed to allow both sides to understand the other’s position and to see if there is the potential to resolve the dispute without issuing proceedings. Before a claim is issued in court there is no risk of being liable for the costs of your opponent even if you engage them in correspondence. A well drafted pre-action letter can lead to a defendant conceding defeat before proceedings have even been issued so it is very important. Even if the defendant does not consent to judgment at that point, it is helpful to know what the defendant is saying its defence will be at this point and can also result in the useful production of documents. It may even be that the defendant’s response produces a complete answer to the claim, so costs are avoided in bringing a bad case. If, following the pre-action stage, the defendant has not capitulated but your legal team considers that there are good prospects of success, the next stage is to issue and serve the claim and liability for the other side’s costs commences at this stage.
How you minimise your exposure, and obtain funding for your exposure to your opponents’ costs, is set out below but covers some of the ground set out above:
A protective costs order is likely to be available in environmental judicial reviews (as a result of the Aarhus Convention).
As above, you should consider crowdfunding to raise monies towards your exposure to the opponents’ costs.
As above, BTE and AFE insurance may be available to cover your exposure to the other side’s costs.
If you are successful in your claim, then the usual order will be for the Defendant to pay your costs or a proportion of your costs if you were not successful in all of your grounds for bringing the claim. You should however allow for about a 15-25% shortfall between costs actually incurred and those which the Defendant will be ordered to pay.
If you are unsuccessful, then the usual order is for you to pay the Defendant’s costs, subject to any PCO or costs capping order that may be granted/consented to.
You should also bear in mind that there are points in proceedings at which the Claimant can withdraw gracefully from the proceedings without having incurred too much liability for the other side’s costs, so you are generally not committing yourself to a huge liability right from the start. Many clients issue proceedings, wait to see what the response is and take it from there.