Minister says high fees pose obstacle to justice

19 October, 2015

Justice Minister Lord Faulks has said that lawyers’ costs posed just as big an obstacle to people conducting litigation as court fees.

Speaking during a meeting at the Conservative party conference, Lord Faulks said he accepted that there was  ‘anxiety’ from some in the business community and elsewhere about the level of fees charged for commencing claims in court, but added that the fees charged by lawyers remained the ‘elephant in the room’.

The QC hinted that the government is still keen to do more to reform ‘enormous’ legal costs saying: “I don’t think we have got a grip on the overall amount that lawyers charge.”

“The Germans, for example, have very much more in the way of fixed costs. Once you decide to go [down] the court routes you know what is coming at the end of the road.”

“[Court fees are] not too much compared with the fees you come up with for solicitors.”

He was joined during the meeting by former City solicitor and recently elected Conservative MP, Alberto Costa, who said that some of his former colleagues were not doing enough to encourage and promote Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which was adding unnecessary costs to the court system and to their client’s bills.

“Looking back over the last 15 years we are not where ADR was promised to be. Most business people don’t know what ADR stands for,” said Costa.

“The majority of litigators, particularly in the City, are still not qualified [in ADR]. People are still wedded to the court system.”

He added that he would like to see ADR clauses as standard in contracts drawn up by lawyers for their clients.

Many solicitors have said the comments made by Lord Faulks were offensive to the profession and out of touch with the realities of the current legal market.  They have said that the increase in fees will have a significant effect on their practice and that it just wouldn’t be practical for them to cut costs at a time when they were already struggling to make profits.

If you are concerned about the potential damage that the increase in court and tribunal fees could have on your practice, please contact us.