Nothing new here!
We all know the saying that you get what you pay for.
I say it often when talking to clients about fees, particularly on conveyancing costs. We do it all on a fixed fee basis, but we are not the cheapest and we do not aim to be. We are aiming to provide a good quality service for a good quality fee. If clients are on a budget or are price sensitive, then we are not the firm for them. I often given the example of the weekly shop – there is nothing wrong with Tesco’s basics, and if that is what you have budgeted for, then you won’t starve, but you won’t be looked after as well as if you’d gone to Harrods. Some clients decide to instruct us, because you don’t buy a house every week, and they want to do it right. Some clients don’t instruct us, deciding that Tesco’s will do fine, even if it’s doesn’t taste quite as good. A few come back to us afterwards having had food poisoning elsewhere.
So, it didn’t surprise me (but it might surprise you) to learn that a woman who paid a low fixed fee for conveyancing work, only to find that she was not told about a road development that was planned close to her new property, has lost her claim for negligence. The Court found that the low fixed fee limited the responsibility of the conveyancer to just advising on the information in front of them and didn’t require them to carry out any further checks. You can’t expect a Harrods level of service for the same cost as a Tesco’s basic meal. Although this seemed quite obvious to me, I would imagine that most people would assume that conveyancing is conveyancing, and that the only difference between us and some of our cheaper competitors, is that they might be slower and not as efficient, but they’ll still get the job done. Apparently not.
The same has also turned out to be true of settlement agreements. If you are making staff redundant, it would be normal to ask them to sign a settlement agreement, on which they would take independent legal advice. Whilst there is no legal obligation on an employer to pay for that advice, I’ve never had one refuse to do so and it’s usually included in the agreement itself. However, the amount of fees varies from employer to employer and sometimes, the figure given is low for the amount of work involved, which makes it harder to ensure that the employee has had good advice. If so, I always challenge it, and some employers to reconsider, but not always. Recently a Tribunal agreed with me and suggested that where an employer pays less than £500 net per agreement, they may find it hard to argue that the employee is bound by the deal because the level of costs paid may not be enough to be sure that the job has been done properly.
As the saying goes, if a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Reassuringly good value for money.