One of Britain’s highest profile divorce lawyers Baroness Fiona Shackleton was questioned, about the “mark ups” added to her bills to a number of her celebrity clients, by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA). In a Daily Telegraph article http://tgr.ph/qWukDC Lady Shackleton’s law firm Payne Hicks and Beach were subject to an investigation by the SRA in 2009.
The Daily Telegraph has seen invoices sent to high-profile client’s such as Sir Paul McCartney and Madonna which include a “mark up” to her £550 per hour rate. The SRA were told that the “mark up” were added to her clients bills as lump sums to make up for the huge amount of time spent on every case which was not recorded. Lady Shackleton said she was available “24 hours a day, 52 weeks of the year” to her clients.
The investigation which closed within a year did not impose any sanctions and there have been no complaints filed by the individuals about the service they received or the amount they were charged.
Solicitors have always been able to apply “mark ups” to their invoices to reflect many things such as the nature and complexity of the work, the amount of time spent, knowledge required and responsibility involved, the value of the transaction, property or subject matter. This is not an exhaustive list and a typical mark up will apply where time is of the essence such as a last-minute instruction before a hearing.
In all cases the Solicitor must justify to the satisfaction of the client who ultimately will decide whether or not to pay that account. If the client is not happy to pay and the solicitor cannot agree terms then the SRA will investigate.
Legal ombudsman Alan Sampson said that he opened thousands of investigations of law firms overbilling their clients since his appointment a year ago, he said that the billing systems used by law firms were in desperate need of reform.
Thankfully like many others I now provide an itemized breakdown in an effort to ensure our cost conscious clients are able to see the service they are paying for.
I am a Divorce Attorney in Utah, and it sounds like I need to start using “mark ups” for my clients. The key here I think is that none of the clients complained.
Communication is the key and further what price is payable for a good job. Each client will value the service in their own minds and justify their spending accordingly. Sadly I am sure that we are not all fortunate enough to have clients such as Sir Paul McCartney and Madonna who may not look so closely at their bills and have enough money to pay. Thanks for comment, kind regards.
When you deal with these type of celebrity client they don’t bother about these charges as they are so busy in their schedule. Even they charge if they work in similar fashion or even higher as we can expect.
Quite often it is the personal assistant that is left to send the cheque/money transfer and I am sure they are on commission for the amount they they can save by challenging the bill. The actual client only takes a glance I am sure. Thanks for reading blog.
There are so many cases where we can see that real charge for any service is quite less but in between there are so many persons who make profit as their commission and cost become higher.