‘No-win no-fee’ agreements clarified in Belsner

A landmark judgment provides much-needed clarity for solicitors and their clients who enter into a type of ‘no-win no-fee’ agreement.

The Court of Appeal yesterday (27 October) published its judgment in Belsner v CAM Legal Services, which examined solicitors’ costs and the deductions from client damages in personal injury cases.

Law Society of England and Wales vice president Nick Emmerson said: “We welcome the judgment on this important case. As an intervening party, we understand a different outcome may have significantly impacted our members, and the ability of clients to secure the advice and representation they need.

“Personal injury solicitors are there to represent those people who are injured or become ill through no fault of their own.

“It is crucial that solicitors can be paid equitably for the vital work they do. This judgment upholds that important point.

“Solicitors and their clients should be able to spend their time on the substance of a case, rather than the convoluted mechanics of how that case will be funded.

“Funding agreements between a solicitor and their client should be easy to understand and as transparent as possible.

“Looking forward, solicitors need to be able to continue to be paid fairly and reasonably for the work they carry out, while clients need an efficient mechanism that enables them to challenge the costs charged by their solicitor when there is a legitimate reason for doing so.

“It is therefore clear that much more needs to be done to ensure the statutory framework underpinning solicitor-own client funding agreements and their assessment is fit for purpose.

“Over recent years there have been many changes to civil litigation procedure and funding. Legislation has not always kept up with these innovations.

“For example, this case has highlighted a range of important issues which require further consideration, such as the distinction between contentious and non-contentious work.

“Further confusion could ensue as reforms continue. Civil justice processes are continuing to be digitalised, pre-action protocols and their role are being examined and the extension of fixed recoverable costs is scheduled for the first half of 2023.

“The Law Society strongly urges the UK government to reflect on this case and ensure the civil justice system has a solid foundation of clear legal costs provisions on which solicitors and their clients can rely.

“We look forward to working with the government on ensuring we have a robust statutory framework which reflects the day-to-day situations facing solicitors and their clients.”

Notes to editors

Read the Belsner v CAM judgment in full

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