When flying back from holiday the other day I was glancing at the on-board bar prices. (Despite living a multi-millionaire playboy lifestyle, I am too mean to pay for a flight that has a free bar.)
They were selling 5cl miniatures of Bombay Sapphire gin (standard 40% strength) for £4 a bottle. By my maths, that works out at £80 a litre. The same flight was selling duty free (which unfortunately you are not meant to consume on the flight) Bombay Sapphire (at 47% strength: the good stuff) for £24 for two one litre bottles: £12 a litre. That, by any standards, is a significant price differential.
In the field of legal costs there is a similar level of surprising price gap between the hourly rates that claimant representatives claim and the rates charged by defendant lawyers. Claimants argue that this difference is not evidence that they are overpaid – and therefore that the Guideline Hourly Rates are too high – but rather is due to a combination of the fact that defendant lawyers have guaranteed work volumes and that claimant lawyers have different acquisition costs due to advertising and/or referral fees.
I will leave others to decide whether this explains the following example. This is simply one in my current case load and is far from being anything like the most extreme example I have seen.
The case concerns a high profile, high damages sporting injury claim. The main fee earner (a Grade A) for the claimant is based in a Northern city (Band One). The rate claimed for 2007 is £285. A 100% success fee is claimed in addition. With VAT at 15%, the total claimed is £655.50 per hour. The main fee earner (also Grade A) for the defendant is based in Central London. The rate charged to the defendant insurers for 2007 was £160 (£184 with VAT). Both fee earners are specialists in this type of claim. So, a rate of £655.50 as against £184.
It is no doubt fair to say that comparing a CFA funded case with a non-CFA funded case is something of an artificial comparison. Nevertheless, the base hourly rate claimed by the claimant’s solicitor is 46% above the Guideline Hourly Rates for the area where the firm is based. The rate charged by the defendant solicitor is 45% below the Guideline Hourly Rates for the area where the defendant firm is based. Despite the claimant’s solicitors being based in an area where the Guideline Hourly Rates are lower, they are claiming a rate that is 78% higher than the defendant’s.
Of course, maybe claimant lawyers are just “worth” more.
Feel free to submit more extreme examples than this one.