A client has not paid my bill. Can I issue cost recovery proceedings if they make a complaint?

A client failed to pay a final invoice. I intend to issue proceedings to recover costs, but the client complained about the costs information I provided at the outset. Can I still issue proceedings?

Subject to the pre-action protocol for debt claims, you may be able to issue proceedings for recovery of the debt and deal with the complaint under your internal complaints handling procedure at the same time.

Whether this is appropriate depends on the circumstances.

If the protocol for debt claims applies to your client, you could be exposed to sanctions for non-compliance.

One of the aims of the protocol is to enable the parties to resolve the matter without the need to start court proceedings, including:

  • agreeing a reasonable repayment plan, or
  • considering using an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedure

If you find there are failings in respect of the costs information you provided during the retainer, there may be little point in obtaining judgment for the full amount, only to have to provide a partial refund of your fee for admitted poor service.

If you feel the costs information given is adequate and the charges are fair, then your complaints handing procedure will result in a final letter that:

  • records the outcome of your investigation
  • informs the complainant of their right to refer the complaint to the Legal Ombudsman

Subject to compliance with the protocol, you may continue with your costs recovery proceedings.

For further information, see the pre-action protocol for debt claims.


While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

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