Fees for the initial meeting and taking instructions from the client

You are only in a position to take instructions from the client, and be paid for it, when you have admitted the client to advice and assistance having been satisfied that the matter on which advice is sought is a matter of Scots law and that the client is financially eligible.

Payment-related information you should provide about the initial meeting

The length of an initial meeting will vary but you must provide sufficient information in the account narrative, especially to justify a lengthy meeting.  The narrative should clearly set out

  • the purpose of the meeting and what happened
  • the actual time involved, subject to any adjustment where a precognition has been taken under advice and assistance (see paragraph 6.8), rounding up the net balance.

Providing a letter of engagement and charges payable

In line with Law Society practice rules, a letter of engagement (also known as a terms of business or a terms of engagement letter) sent to a client after the initial meeting is not chargeable.  In terms of the Law Society rules there are three automatic exemptions to the rule that solicitors must send clients a letter of engagement such as those described above. These are where:

  1. a client regularly instructs a solicitor in the same type of work;
  2. no practical opportunity for the information to be provided before the conclusion of the work (the work is completed at the first meeting);
  3. the client is under 12.

Confirmatory letter following initial meeting: limited circumstances in which we will pay

As a general rule of practice, a letter confirming a meeting (or a telephone conversation) is not chargeable, on the basis that you have charged for the meeting (or the conversation) and the letter is simply an aide-memoire.  However, we will allow a charge for a letter, after the first meeting, confirming the client’s instructions and the advice you give, perhaps setting out the action to be taken on these instructions, in the following circumstances:

  • it relates directly and exclusively to the advice given;
  • it is confined to the essentials and to the specific advice given; and
  • the advice is stated briefly and in plain English, focused on the specific, material issues.

In short, the letter should appear, in the circumstances of the case, to be justified and necessary to inform your client.  For example, it may help your client for you to briefly outline (where there is a house) occupancy rights, exclusion orders, the implications of a title in joint names, division of household goods etc.  Where the oral advice has covered only one issue – for example, contact with a child – we consider a one page letter should succinctly cover all that is needed at that stage.  We consider that only an unusual situation would justify more than a two-page confirmatory letter at this stage of advice.

Many firms operate a practice where a letter of engagement also contains confirmatory information.  If you intend to charge for confirmatory aspects of the initial meeting, you should include this in a separate letter, to avoid the need to calculate what proportion of the combined letter is chargeable.  Where the information is contained in one letter, although the letter of engagement itself is not chargeable, we will allow a charge to the extent that it contains confirmatory information.  You should clarify in the account what proportion of the letter relates to confirmatory aspects of the meeting and restrict your charge accordingly.

Precognition under advice and assistance – method of charging

The advice and assistance Table of Fees, at paragraph 1D, provides for an inclusive fee “for taking and drawing precognitions”.  As the narrative suggests, this fee subsumes not only framing the precognition but also the time charged for taking it.  There is no separate framing charge under advice and assistance.

There may be situations where advice has been given over and above taking the precognition which is separately chargeable.  However, this should be clear from the narrative.  This could be shown as, for example:

Attendance with client providing advice on the next steps to be taken and taking precognition
Time engaged 40 minutes (10 minutes advising) £12.75
Precognition (2 sheets) £38.25

As can be seen, you must adjust the time charged for the meeting at which the precognition is taken accordingly –

  • do not include any time expended on taking the precognition
  • show the actual total time of the meeting on the face of the account, and the extent to which this time has been adjusted.

The proper charge will be the adjusted time rounded up to the next quarter hour.

The ABWOR Table of Fees has no equivalent fee.  As with most fees prescribed for taking precognitions in anticipation of litigation under legal aid, there is provision for a time charge, for each quarter hour spent, and a framing charge prescribed at paragraph 1C.

Covering letter for A&A application – no fee available

A covering letter with the application form for advice and assistance is not chargeable.

You should avoid attaching covering letters or additional sheets – there ought to be enough room on the form for you to provide any necessary explanations.

Similarly, we will not pay for a covering letter with an application for legal aid.  The application form gives enough space for all material information.


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