Legal Services Regulation Act 2015

61.

Authority to facilitate resolution of complaints made under this Part relating to excessive costs

61.  (1) Where the Authority determines under section 57 that a complaint to which section 51(1)(b) applies is admissible, or where a complaint is remitted to it under section 62 , it shall invite the client and the legal practitioner concerned to make efforts to resolve the matter the subject of the complaint in an informal manner.

(2) Where the client and the legal practitioner agree to the Authority’s invitation under subsection (1), and request the Authority to do so, the Authority shall facilitate the resolution of the matter—

(a) by offering its assistance in resolving the matter in an informal manner, or

(b) by identifying to the legal practitioner and the client other persons who are willing to assist in resolving the matter in an informal manner.

(3) Where the Authority, having allowed the client and the legal practitioner a reasonable period to resolve the matter the subject of the complaint in an informal manner, considers that an agreement or resolution between the parties in relation to the complaint is unlikely to be reached in that manner, it may give notice in writing to the client and the legal practitioner (and, where appropriate, any other person involved in attempting to resolve the dispute) that it proposes to determine the complaint in accordance with this section.

(4) Where subsection (3) applies, the Authority shall not determine the complaint concerned earlier than 30 days after the giving of notice under that subsection.

(5) Where—

(a) the client or the legal practitioner does not accept the Authority’s invitation under subsection (1),

(b) the client or the legal practitioner, having attempted to resolve the matter in an informal manner, confirms to the Authority that he or she does not wish to continue to make such an attempt, or

(c) the Authority decides under subsection (3) to exercise its power to determine the complaint under this section,

the Authority shall thereafter invite the client and the legal practitioner to furnish to it, within such reasonable period as is specified by the Authority, a statement setting out their respective positions in relation to the matter the subject of the complaint.

(6) The Authority shall consider any statement furnished to it pursuant to subsection (5) and, where it considers that the amount of costs sought by the legal practitioner in respect of legal services provided to the client by the legal practitioner was or is excessive, and that it is, having regard to all the circumstances concerned, appropriate to do so, may direct the legal practitioner to do one or more of the following:

(a) refund without delay, either wholly or in part as directed, any amount already paid by or on behalf of the client in respect of the practitioner’s costs in connection with the bill of costs;

(b) waive, whether wholly or in part as directed, the right to recover those costs.

(7) Where the client or legal practitioner is aggrieved by a direction made by the Authority under subsection (6) or its failure to make a direction, he or she may by notice in writing given not more than 30 days after the Authority has notified the parties to the complaint of its decision under subsection (6) seek a review by a Review Committee established under section 62 of the direction or the failure.

(8) Where a bill of costs which has been the subject of complaint under section 51(1)(b) has subsequently been adjudicated, then—

(a) where the Authority has given a direction under subsection (6), the direction shall cease to have effect, or

(b) where the Authority has not given a direction under subsection (6), it shall not proceed to investigate such a complaint or otherwise apply the provisions of this section.

(9) Where the Authority has notified a legal practitioner under section 57(6) that a complaint under section 51(1)(b) in respect of a bill of costs issued by the legal practitioner is admissible, the legal practitioner shall not—

(a) issue or cause to be issued civil proceedings (whether on his own behalf or on behalf of any other person or persons), or

(b) if already issued, proceed further with civil proceedings,

in respect of the amount (or any part thereof) of a bill of costs without the written consent of the Authority before the Authority has determined the matter under subsection (6) unless, on application by that legal practitioner, on notice to the Authority, a court orders otherwise.

(10) Where pursuant to this section a dispute regarding a bill of costs between the client and the legal practitioner is resolved, the client shall not thereafter be entitled to seek adjudication of the bill of costs under Part 10 unless such adjudication forms part of the resolution.

(11) The determination under this section of a complaint shall be without prejudice to any legal right of the client.