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Family business | We must not ignore the warnings about fixed fees

The dire situation in the residential property sector gives us a taste of things to come if we adopt this method elsewhere: quality will plummet and negligence claims and insurance premiums will escalate, argues Marilyn Stowe

11 June 2012

It seems that rarely a month goes by without a high-profile legal figure passing comment on the state of solicitor’s fees. Earlier in the year it was the legal ombudsman, Adam Sampson, and his office criticising what they see as “arcane pricing and billing practices” and calling for a widespread move away from hourly billing to fixed fees.

And last month Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, Master of the Rolls, delivered a speech to the Association of Costs Lawyers in which he said: “An alternative to hourly billing for legal work is needed urgently.” He even went so far as to suggest that businesses that base their charges simply on costs “do not deserve to succeed”, or even “survive”.

I suppose that, as a former barrister, Lord Neuberger has no difficulty with the concept of fixed fees. Barristers receive the papers in their entirety from instructing solicitors, and then calc...

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