Business spotlight with network North.
00:00:02.970 Connecting business.
00:00:05.490 Thursday night is business hour with Will and Steve. And you know at times in our life we may need the services of a solicitor and sometimes we get a little bit put off cos we may think well it's expensive and it's costly but is it really. So joining us in the studio tonight is Anthony Cole from AJC law to find out. Joel let's dispel some of the myths about some of the costs. But before that Anthony let's just tell us a little bit about AJC law.
00:00:35.040 Yes thanks. AJC law are a firm of solicitors were based just outside of York. We are principally a litigation practice. We tell you do employment law and personal injury work commercial disputes and so on wills and probate work. So we do an end do everything. But what we do we do properly.
00:00:53.730 A bit of a mixture. But you're not one of these law firms that do lots of things all encompassing. You know they've got mega departments.
00:01:01.350 No that's right. Your firms these days you quite often get large firms that will do everything they've got big departments and you get niche firms the high street practice is is changing. We have to change. There isn't one solicitor cannot do anything. Can't do everything that they used to do. So individual solicitors we specialize at an earlier age at an earlier stage in our career development and and stick to that route.
00:01:28.800 So become specialists and probably work alongside of solicitors and work together really to provide the overall service.
00:01:36.840 Absolutely. So you have you know departments within a firm all specialising rather than one man trying to do it all.
00:01:44.750 Okay. Now I've often wondered this was I don't know the answer. How long does it take to train to be a solicitor.
00:01:51.570 So the traditional route is you go to university you do a law degree which takes three years and then you go to law school and you go to the Law Society finals and I did you do a year's course at a law school and then you do two years as a trainee and then you become a solicitor. So six years in total but then realistically you do after that when you've got your own caseload when you really start to learn how to do the job.
00:02:17.760 And I heard something on the radio the other day that everybody can I want to get this right. It was to do with wills and things and not everybody can call themselves a solicitor. I might be right on this but they can call themselves a lawyer. Is that right.
00:02:33.420 That's right. I mean lawyers are a bit of a generic term you get because there are all the qualifications within the law. There's obviously barristers legal executives and then beyond that you just get people who have been in the law a long time. I've got lots of experience but maybe I haven't really got any formal qualifications and that sort of litigation executives paralegals but a generic term for everyone will be a lawyer right.
00:02:59.430 OK. So you decided to specialize in litigation yes idea. That's right yeah. OK. So here we are then we opened up with some of the myths about costs let's dispel some of those myths. Anthony let's let's go for it because I always think as soon as I walk through a door the panel signs are running. That's right. So tell me what you do.
00:03:21.000 You see horror stories in the in the newspapers sometimes times about legal bills and divorce bills and the lawyers bills being bigger than the any settlement received.
00:03:29.630 And so people are always concerned at the outset what is this going to cost me. The traditional model is as a solicitor you have an hourly rate and it depends on how experienced you are as to what an hourly rate might be. And they are principally guided by the court. So your county court sets the rates and my firm adheres to those rates and most firms will adhere to those rates in London City firms the much higher of course is between different type of work and so be an hourly rate and the number of hours you spend is a simple calculation at the end of the case.
00:04:04.170 So that's how much work we've done in this case. So that's sort of the traditional model and in and in the past solicitors were probably guilty of not giving a good estimate at the start of what that a final bill might be. So these days there are certain jobs that still require that traditional model where at the start the outcome is unknown and you have to say to your client right. I estimate that it will take this long. My hourly rate is this. And so we are looking at a figure.
00:04:35.790 Of this OK. To complete your work. But beyond that there's lots of other ways to fund litigation as well as you talk about.
00:04:44.450 No one comes to my mind and to try to dispel this one. Tom Cruise in the firm. When everything there was like timed with a timer and a bell and things like that was is that is just that still happened time recording certainly happens.
00:04:58.730 Yeah. We have a case management system most firms have a case management system and so you do you record the work you do on a file. It's it's protection for the firm to justify the work we've done and it's protection for the client as well. But you know if you are trying to justify a bill you can because I don't think you've done that much work. Well here you go. This is this is the work I've done. Here's a breakdown of where it where it's been incurred. So you know what.
00:05:27.580 Well we can have. We can have an argument about that document now but at least we got something we can you can see where the time's been spent.
00:05:33.240 Yeah. Something we can discuss. Yes into that. Okay. So I'm sorry I interrupted you . Well go. Go for where you were going with that.
00:05:39.370 Yeah no certainly. So quite often even though the solicitor may want to charge an hourly rate often people have legal expenses insurance. Often people don't know they've got legal expenses insurance because it's an add on to another policy. Not many people go out and purchase a standalone legal expenses insurance policy but for example with you motor policy if you read it carefully you might pay 15 quid within it. That gives you certain cover within your household policy. Same sort of thing. And even the tax to your credit cards they sometimes have a a policy.
00:06:13.900 Each of those policies don't cover everything but they it's always worth checking if you've had an accident. For example you can you can if it's in your car or your insurance policy if it's someone at home or perhaps if you if you've if you've been out had an accident you know you tripped over a payment or similar a defect in the payment. There might be some in your household policy always worth having a look and if you're not sure ring up your solicitor. I think. I think I might have it useless.
00:06:43.300 Will always have a look at it for you and that insurance policy will pay your legal costs at the end of that if it if it gets to that point if it gets to that point exactly.
00:06:52.910 If that's work because my current role is due actually and there is my little 15 pounds out there and it's always crazy but when you get your total bill and you look at the 15 pound and you go don't know about the 15 pound and yet it's worth doing it it can be worth it.
00:07:08.290 It really depends what it covers on a stock. It's like anything it might be value for money. It might not be otherwise worth having. Having to look at it see what it covers because we'll go on to the next is but no win no fee agreements and a lot of the legal expenses attached to your motor policy will give you cover for an accident claim within your car but 99 percent of solicitors will offer you a no win no fee on that anyway. So you know potentially a 50 quid. Actually it's it's nice to have it but possibly not necessary.
00:07:41.680 So yeah no in no fee it is as it sounds if you don't win you don't pay anything. Zero. You know that it has to do with the solicitor's costs. What about court costs. Okay. How long we got to explain that so that the the correct name for a no enough is a conditional fee agreements. Right. And the condition first to get paid is that we went okay. But the no in no fee specifically refers to the solicitor's costs. So at the end of the case if we'd done a thousand pounds of the work and you're successful the success of my successful client becomes responsible to pay those costs.
00:08:19.110 If were unsuccessful. We write those that thousand pounds off. So that's how that section works. But there is also we also know in any legal case there are other things to pay for beyond your solicitor. We call them disbursements. But as you mentioned court fees it might be you need if it's sort of a dispute about some building work you might need a surveyor for example if it is an action case we might need medical records and we might need a medical report and these can add up to hundreds of times more than a thousand pounds.
00:08:54.880 And at the end of the case if your case is. Well if your case is successful the individual becomes responsible to pay those costs. The reality is in litigation that as a general rule the loser pays the winner's costs. Okay. Yeah. So for example if this this this applies to whether we're doing the traditional hourly rate model or even really expensive insurance as a general rule the loser pays the winner's cost. That's a generalisation and you know where you're next. I could explain in more detail in due course but that's the general rule.
00:09:30.860 So like a no no no the program yes you know we look forward does it take six years grossness. Yes. Yeah. OK.
00:09:37.600 So those disbursements will be recovered from the other side if you're successful if you're not successful in need to look at who would pay those costs because as a solicitor I don't pay them because I've just written off my thousand pounds at a time. Yeah. As a client you don't want to pay them because you've just lost your case. Yes you've had an accident or you've had a dodgy builder or whatever and you and you've not been successful. So what we do with that is there is actually the insurance policy you can take out to cover those disbursements.
00:10:08.690 Okay. All right. So there is a way to avoid paying those if you are unsuccessful but all which needs explaining at the start isn't it. It does and one of our key jobs at the outset is to make sure our client understands you know. If they're responsible for cost how they're responsible cost what those costs might be can they be insured can they you know lessen the risk by an insurance policy that sort of thing. There is another type of a no win no fee agreement which is called a. So it's actually a reduced fee conditional fee agreement so you may at the start of a case.
00:10:45.820 As this list we may assess a case and say it's a bit touch and go this case I think you might win. Well I'm not prepared to take it on an absolute no win no fee but I'll tell you what your county court says the hourly hourly rate for a great a fee is two hundred one pounds an hour. Now I'll take this case on. And you pay me a hundred twenty pounds an hour plus V A T and if the case loses you pay me a hundred twenty pounds an hour. So you're your you're getting a discount on your fee but if the case is successful.
00:11:16.120 I'm going to charge you 250 pounds now. So I'm getting an enhancement on my fee right. So we're each second a bit of a risk there. I took a bit of a risk that I don't get paid my only right. If we're not successful you take a lot of risk. You pay a bit more but then you've been successful. So that's sort of a slightly watered down no win no fee but it's still of benefit to both parties if the claim is so successful. Okay. Beyond that obviously.
00:11:42.310 There's still a lot of solicitor's work that's fixed fee you know so you just know at the start what's going to be. And they didn't a lot of things that were a drafting type works and I like doing a will do what exactly as our first example is gonna be.
00:11:54.220 Okay so you'll do a will and you know fairly sort of standard will you know if you're a married couple perhaps you know be everything to each other and then to the children the grandchildren you know see a solicitor will know how much work is involved in that little transaction that bit of drafting and so we'll be onsite now outside.
00:12:13.930 Right. It will be this much if that will when he comes on in this tax planning and whatever and trusts then the solicitor will probably still be able to give you a fixed fee but are we more than just the traditional will conveyancing generally it's fixed fee you know. Yeah. Power of Attorney things the powers of attorney. Exactly. You know it is something that we can at the outset measure the amount of work required.
00:12:38.770 Then you'll get a fixed fee and going back to that comment I made about the will was and the lawyers thing that's cos that's all they're talking about. So I think I was last week when it came out that there's still a high percentage of people who still don't have a will. OK still a fair few that go and buy one off the shelf or go somewhere else. The key thing that stuck in my mind when they when they were talking was if you go to a solicitor there's Oh why don't I know what the phrase was.
00:13:05.050 But you've also got a bit of a claim against the solicitor I don't know that that's the right word a claim but where you've got a solicitor makes a mistake on something you've got some fallback if somebody. You've by one over the counter you've not got a match. Is that about right.
00:13:19.120 That's that's completely right. Well as a solicitor as a as a profession we have to carry a professional indemnity insurance. And as a minimum that's three million pounds if you buy something off the Internet you buy something off the Internet you know and who knows where they're going to be in five years time. So absolutely. And this is a little bugbear in mind that people think they're saving money by going on the Internet spending 30 40 50 quid on a will that may be deals with our half a million pound estate.
00:13:51.740 Yeah I think it's appropriate to deal with that with a 50 pound will Let's go to the solicitor get it done properly. It's it's not it's not an expensive thing having you will. But it is done properly. Yes it's done by someone who's been doing it for donkey's years and someone in the unlikely event that that person. Has done something wrong with you will then they'll first well they'll be there. Yeah. When you when you find out that something's gone wrong and they've got insurance should anything go wrong.
00:14:17.670 OK. So it's worth it's worth it and it's you know it's not just wills as it is it's like other things that where people buy online could be car insurance could be anything could be. Estate agents you know people professionals are there for a reason.
00:14:31.960 Precisely. We've done our training and following the training we've got our experience you know people who draft wills I don't ruffle my wheels myself but people who Rockwell's dropped hundreds these things a month they know exactly what they're doing currently when people come to see yourself they're not.
00:14:48.600 Are they are they genuinely surprised about the costs or do they go shopping take a breath. But then when you've explained the benefits to them the calm down how does it work.
00:15:00.100 I think very much that yes that you know that they do because they do have a sharp intake of breath because what my my principle work is litigation and if I've got a piece of commercial litigation you know it easily could be a five figure sum to take the matter to trial and you know we're under an obligation to say if this goes to trial this could be your costs and tell them and that's when we get the sharp intake of breath. Yeah yeah. So if we if we settle it by correspondence or if we settle it at a mediation or there is lots of there's lots of ways to try and avoid getting to that five figure sum trial.
00:15:39.210 Yeah. Yeah. So and then you sit down and it's also it is it's not just the solicitor telling you what to do with your litigation is you telling the solicitor what you want out of it you know how much it means to you you know some people some people in the outside say it's just a point of principle and I think that's absolutely fine. And I write down a figure say that's what your point of principle will cost you is it. Is it such a big principle or do we actually want to try and resolve the issue get a settlement.
00:16:06.490 And you know this figure was written down will be a lot less yeah.
00:16:10.210 Yeah. No isn't it something of the day in the why I was looking at this. I think I've seen somebody talking about party walls which meant nothing to me until this explained about party walls regally and all that kind of thing. And it's not just a wall it could be a boundary and a fence I think. And 60 centimeters of land had ended up costing somebody four hundred sixty thousand pounds with court costs. From what you're describing there not knowing the case load no we're not. No we're not saying it but that sounded like a matter of principle to make because if you said to me this is gonna potentially cost you that.
00:16:43.810 Steve I think I had a word with my neighbor.
00:16:46.960 Yeah absolutely and you were big advocates of mediation and other forms of negotiation and yes sounds very much like they should have should have got round a table had a conversation over a cappuccino I think a lot cheaper wouldn't it.
00:17:02.520 I think so. But I guess it's like anything else you may give people advice and they still go on down that route that's that's life that's life.
00:17:09.020 And that's absolute right. You do get people who who who. Make their own choice. You know we can advise them but it is the clients. It's the client's case its clients choice to choose where they're going with it.
00:17:23.080 And we just make sure we've got a very detailed file no to say we told you this. Yes. Six months ago. And this is where we are now.
00:17:29.980 OK. So is anything else that people need to dispel any myths about the cause of we missed anything.
00:17:35.590 I'm sure we could talk a lot longer. I think the main thing is is really at the outset to ask you to ask questions of your solicitor about what is going to cost. Ask them to go through. Can I do it on a fixed fee basis. Is there a no win no fee available. You know if it's going to be on an hourly rate well can we. Is there any way we can cap the hourly rate. Then we reduce it. You know as I say there are there are different bands of solicitors.
00:18:03.580 But ultimately it isn't necessary question of finding the cheapest solicitor you've got to be happy with your solicitor. Yeah confident with you solicitor.
00:18:11.590 And the fact that somebody might offer to do it for less money doesn't mean you'll get a better result from experience I you know we've recently gone through something where my mom had had an accident and we were come you know in conversation with Solicitor. And it's like can we just stop there because what does that mean. Yeah. It may mean something to you but to my mom and me we're saying go in we don't understand that.
00:18:34.720 That's very much. That's correct solicitors because we deal with and I suppose it's the same in any industry profession.
00:18:39.550 We have you know certain words that we just used day in day out and and you know the old school school ones will it will throw about Latin in here and and it's really not really to try and you know make themselves look great but they've just you know there are certain Latin phrases that that we just know and it's like you're trying many of you if you listen yourself I think that's a bit pompous isn't it. Why did I go there. That. Interesting.
00:19:04.420 So it sums up some of the what you mentioned the litigation where there without breaking any count for judgeship confidentiality Kent is an example of things that you help people with because there might be people listening tonight who go you know what I need some help I need to talk to Anthony.
00:19:18.670 Yeah of course we do the excellent work obviously we work for employees who've you know feel they've been badly try to work you know maybe be dismissed unfairly we also deal with the businesses who potentially haven't been paid you know we've got a window company that's not been paid for some work they've been done.
00:19:45.190 So anything like that but really what about shareholder agreements or things like that do you do things like that. We do. We do some some drafting. Yes. Yeah. And you're after work shareholder agreement we do some transactional work as well. You know we were selling some businesses were purchased to purchase a business that sells hair pieces. Recently it was an interesting program. OK. Now I'm not saying I knew much about beforehand a little bit you know.
00:20:09.840 Yeah really. Okay. Well look if anybody wants to find out any more about what you do how can they get in touch with you.
00:20:15.520 They can they can call us on 0 1 9 0 4 7 5 5 2 2 2 or send us an email on info at AJC hyphen law dot co dot uk we'll look.
00:20:27.220 Well they want if you need some help and you know go and talk I appreciate professional advice and from what I'm getting some honest advice as well. That's where you need to be. Antony thanks for joining us today. Thanks a lot. Wonderful the rest of the evening whatever you're doing.
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