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Laurence Sprey -v- Rawlinson Butler LLP [2018] EWHC 354 (QB) - Andrew McAulay, Clarion

26/10/18. Following the introduction of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2013 (LASPO), solicitor/own client costs disputes have increased. The case of Laurence Sprey -v- Rawlinson Butler LLP [2018] EWHC 354 (QB) is a good case to read for anyone who would like to learn more about these types of disputes.

The case was an Appeal by the Claimant to the High Court from a decision of Master Rowley in the Senior Courts Costs Office. The principal issue in the Appeal was whether monthly invoices delivered by the law firm to the client under a discounted conditional fee agreement were ‘statute invoices’. Master Rowley had decided that the relevant invoices were ‘statute invoices’ and the consequence of his decision was that the client was unable to challenge the invoices pursuant to the time limits in section 70 of the Solicitors Act 1974.

The Appeal was successful and the Honourable Mr Justice Nicklin (sitting with Senior Costs Judge Gordon-Saker) set-aside the decision of Master Rowley and allowed an assessment of the relevant invoices. At the heart of their decision was the detailed consideration of the CFA Agreement between the law firm and the client. Ultimately, they decided that the CFA Agreement did not allow interim ‘statute invoices’ to be raised i.e. final monthly invoices. The CFA was a contingency agreement and a final invoice could only be raised on conclusion of the claim - as at this point the total costs incurred would be...

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