When are fees payable for non-formal letters?

While giving advice, especially following investigation or during negotiations, you may have to write your client.

Where a letter is appropriate it should be:

  • Focussed.
  • Succinct.
  • In plain English.

We do not consider it necessary, or reasonable, to send a client a lengthy letter repeating much of the advice given at a meeting, or during a telephone conversation.

It is important that you provide sufficient detail to ensure that we do not need revert to you for further information.

Definition and examples of formal letters and charges payable

A formal letter is a letter that requires little thought, legal expertise or specialised knowledge.  Although not an exhaustive list, examples of letters that we consider to be formal include:

  • An acknowledgement.
  • A reminder.
  • A letter with an enclosure.
  • A letter of basic content.

These should be charged at the formal rate prescribed in Part 2 of Schedule 3 of the Advice and Assistance (Scotland) Regulations 1996.

When may acknowledgment letters be chargeable?

An acknowledgement letter may be chargeable in certain circumstances, for example to acknowledge receipt of:

  • A cheque or payment.
  • A court/tribunal document or document of a formal or confidential nature.
  • A specific document, which is essential in the particular circumstances of the case to avoid prejudice to the client.

Limited circumstances where reminder letters may be chargeable

A reminder letter, if nothing has occurred to progress the matter since you last communicated with the client, is not chargeable.

Subject to the following exceptions, you cannot charge for a letter to the client “to call” unless something has taken place that justifies a meeting or further advice.  We will not pay for a letter “chasing up” the client: It is for the client to keep in contact with you.

The exceptional circumstances are where:

  • The letter “to call”, in the event, becomes the final letter.
  • There is a prospect of recovery/preservation and you have lost contact with a client.

It is reasonable to write to the client or their new solicitor to find out what has happened with the case in the context of a hardship application.

Distinguishing formal from non-formal for purposes of charging

We consider whether a letter is formal or not by the nature and content of the letter rather than its length.  It is not a charge for a “short letter”.  A letter requiring little drafting is allowable at the formal letter rate prescribed at paragraph 1B of the Table of Fees.

Otherwise, a letter is chargeable at the higher letter rate prescribed at paragraph 1C of Part 2 of Schedule 3 of the Advice and Assistance (Scotland) Regulations 1996.

Lengthy letters

When making a claim for a letter that is in excess of three pages it would be helpful if this could be uploaded to the work item.  The letter should be concise and in plain English. We will assess it on its content and not solely by its length. The length of the letter is a relevant, but not a determinate, factor of what we may pay.

If you are referring to or quoting from legislation or rules, you should attach the relevant parts of the legislation or rules to the letter, as an appendix or sheet apart.

We will assess each letter on its own particular circumstances.

Sending similar letters to multiple persons

Where letters similar in content are sent to several recipients, we will allow the first letter at the higher rate and the remainder at the formal rate.

Pro-forma style/template letters

Pro-forma letters should be adopted where possible, especially where you are undertaking the same type of work for a large number of clients.  If you choose to write an individually composed letter where this is not necessary, we may restrict the letter to a charge that we consider reasonable.

We will allow a single formal fee for a wholly pro-forma letter irrespective of its length.

Charging for a final letter

You can charge for a letter informing the client that you are closing the file.  However, the 12 month limit for lodging an account runs from the last piece of what can properly be called advice or assistance, and not from the date of such a letter.  The whole account, including the letter, may not be chargeable if the 12 month limit has already expired.

You can charge for a letter “to call” if, in the event, it becomes the final letter and you have told your client in that letter that you will be closing the file if there is no further contact.

Charges for letters on word count basis

The Table of Fees in Part 2 of Schedule 3 of the Advice and Assistance (Scotland) Regulations 1996 provides that a page shall consist of 125 words or numbers for letters other than a formal letter (for which there is a fixed charge).

Whilst the word-count is helpful, it does not determine of the number of pages we will allow.

We will only allow the charge where the information is:

  • Relevant to the advice being given.
  • Concisely stated in plain English.

We will not take into account the address, reference, greeting or valediction in assessing the number of chargeable pages.

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