In re a Solicitor (Taxation of Costs): CA 1955

Matrimonial proceedings were in contemplation but the instructions to solicitors were terminated before a petition for judicial separation was filed. The client complained as to the costs bill submitted by the solicitors.
Denning LJ disposed of the submission that the line should be drawn between contentious and non-contentious business according to the date of the issue of the writ in the following way: ‘Let me test the position by taking a case where a client asks his solicitor to bring an action. The solicitor thereupon instructs counsel to draft the writ and the statement of claim to be served with it. If the action goes for trial, the costs of that work are recoverable as costs in the action. They are not disallowed simply because the work was done before the writ was issued. It is clearly contentious business. Now suppose that in that very case the solicitor had to take statements from witnesses so as to enable counsel to settle the statement of claim. If the action goes for trial, the cost of that work would also be recoverable as costs in the action . . It would also be contentious business.
Now suppose that after the solicitor had done all that work, but before the writ was actually issued, the case was settled by the defendant paying the claim. Does the work take on a different character simply because the case was settled? Surely not. If it is contentious business when the case goes for trial, it is also contentious business when the case is settled before the writ is issued. The issue of the writ does not alter the nature of the business; nor should it alter the method or amount of the solicitor’s charges. He should get the same reward for the same work, no matter whether the case goes for trial or is settled the moment before the writ issued or the moment after it.’
He said of what was required to be contained in a bill of costs for non-contentious business as follows: ‘[I]t must contain a summarized statement of the work done, sufficient to tell the client what it is for which he is asked to pay. A bare account for ‘professional services’ between certain dates, or for ‘work done in connection with your matrimonial affairs’ would not do. The nature of the work must be stated, such as, advising on such and such a matter, instructing counsel to do so and so, drafting such and such a document, and so forth.’

Denning, Parker LJJ
[1955] 2 QB 252
Solicitors’ Remuneration Order 1929
England and Wales
Cited by:
CitedRalph Hume Garry (a Firm) v Gwillim CA 22-Oct-2002
The appellant sought to have struck out the claimant’s action to recover their costs having represented him. He said that the detail in the bill was so deficient as not to comply with the requirements of the Act.
Held: Though the detail given . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Legal Professions, Costs

Updated: 22 January 2022; Ref: scu.182390