Solicitors Act Judgment – Elias v Wallace LLP

In Elias v Wallace LLP [2022] EWHC 2574 (SCCO), the Claimant had made an application under s.68 Solicitors Act 1974 (“the 1974 Act”) for delivery of a final statute bill from the Defendant, his former solicitor who had acted on his behalf in proceedings in the Business and Property Courts.  The Claimant was of the opinion that the invoices were not statute bills because they were not signed or delivered in accordance with s.69 of the1974 Act.

The Defendant disagreed, its case being that the six invoices issued between 19 August 2020 and 15 October 2020, and which came to a total of £80,168 including VAT, formed a series of Chamberlain bills and were both signed and delivered in accordance with the 1974 Act.

Senior Costs Judge Gordon-Saker referred to s.69 which provides that:

(2A) “A bill is signed in accordance with this subsection if it is –

  1. Signed by the solicitor or on his behalf by an employee of the solicitor authorised by him to sign, or
  2. Enclosed in, or accompanied by, a letter which is signed as mentioned in paragraph (a) and refers to the bill.

(2B) For the purposes of subsection (2A) the signature may be an electronic signature.

(2C) A bill is delivered in accordance with this subsection if—

  1. it is delivered to the party to be charged with the bill personally,
  2. it is delivered to that party by being sent to him by post to, or left for him at, his place of business, dwelling-house or last known place of abode, or
  3. it is delivered to that party -
    1. by means of an electronic communications network, or
    2. by other means but in a form that nevertheless requires the use of apparatus by the recipient to render it intelligible, and that party has indicated to the person making the delivery his willingness to accept delivery of a bill sent in the form and manner used.”

The Costs Judge, in reaching his decision, referred to the following:

  • S 7(2) Electronic Communications Act 2000 (“the 2000 Act”)
  • Chamberlain v Boodle & King [1982] 1 WLR 1443
  • Bari v Rosen [2012] 5 Costs LR 851
  • Vlamaki v Sookias & Sookias [2015] 6 Costs LO 827
  • Ralph Hume Garry v Gwillim [2003] 1WLR 510
  • Cook v Gillard 1 E & B
  • Eversheds v Osman [2000] 1 Costs LR 54
  • Neocleous v Rees [2019] EWHC 2462 (Ch)
  • 2 Law of Property (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1989
  • Bennion, Bailey and Norbury on Statutory Interpretation (8th ed)
  • Attorney General v Edison Telephone Co of London Ltd (1880) 6 QBD 244
  • The Telegraph Act 1869

He came to the following conclusions:

  1. The series of invoices formed a Chamberlain bill.
  2. The Claimant had been provided with sufficient information to form a view as to whether or not the charges were reasonable.
  3. Whilst the invoices themselves were not signed, the typed name “Alex” at the foot of the emails to which the invoices were attached was a signature falling within the definition at s.7(2) of the 2000 Act.
  4. That the emails were letters for the purposes of s.69(2A)(b) of the 1974 Act.
  5. That, by virtue of the Claimant’s agreement to clause 24.3 (that the client agreed that formal notices and documents could be served in him by email), the invoices had been delivered to the Claimant for the purposes of s.69(2C) of the 1974 Act.
  6. That the Claimant would now need to show special circumstances for an Order that there be a detailed assessment.
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