As a football fan that’s a fairly familiar chant.

For those of you not used to spending Saturday afternoons on cold windy terraces (or in the corporate lounge with a glass of champagne as I do these days!) it’s usually what we shout at the ref when he makes a stupid decision.

It is NOT what I say to clients (or opponents) but it is sometimes what goes through my head.

With money getting tighter, more and more people are choosing to issue small claims in the County Court, in the hope that they will end up in Small Claims Court, get a victory and not have to pay legal fees.

I do completely understand why that is appealing, and I sometimes actively encourage people to do that rather than incur solicitors costs which can be disproportionate.

However, this can often lead to a client being given a yellow, or even worse a red card!

For a start, you can never guarantee that you will be allocated to small claims. You don’t get to choose and neither do the other side. The court decides whether it’s going to small claims, and there are some factors over which you have no control that could affect that. In particular, if your opponent makes a counterclaim which brings the total in dispute to over £10k, the chances of going to small claims are low. This means you could end up in fast track, where costs can be awarded, and if you haven’t done a good job of preparing your claim in the first place (perhaps assuming that it doesn’t matter in small claims or that the other side will settle quickly) you could end up spending a lot of money putting it right before it’s too late.

Worse than that is that although it’s unusual to get a costs award in small claims, it’s not nearly as unusual as it used to be. In the last month I’ve been involved in two cases where costs have been awarded.  In one, I was instructed by the Claimant at the last minute. I attended the hearing on their behalf and successfully argued that the Defendant had misled the court and breached an order. The Judge agreed and awarded us costs and the amount we were claiming. I anticipate that the Defendant didn’t really understand the implications of what they were saying in their defence, but they signed a statement of truth and were committed to that line of argument, and so they were stuck with it, and a bill twice the size of the one they would have had if they’d just given my client their money back. In the more recent case, I’ve been asked to advise someone who issued proceedings, but didn’t prepare the case properly, so that not only has their claim been struck out, but they’ve had to pay the costs of the other side, which is as much as the claim was. I can completely understand how this happened and there are no grounds for appeal so the client is stuck with the result.

The disappointing thing about both of these cases is that for the sake of a small amount of legal advice (and so a small amount of cost), thousands of pounds, not to mention a considerable amount of time could have been saved. Not only that, but if more parties had their cases checked over by a professional before they proceeded, a huge amount of court time would be saved, meaning that those cases that did proceed would be more likely to be successfully resolved.

For that reason, if you are thinking of issuing or defending a county court claim, we’re willing to review the claim and advise on options for a fixed fee. We’re also happy to do an initial review for no charge. If this is of interest to you or anyone you know, drop me a line – I’ll be the one with the glass of champagne in one hand, and the football scarf in the other!

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Because we do know what we’re doing!