Typical hourly charge-out rates (excluding VAT) range from £200 to £425, depending on seniority of fee-earner and the type of matter. Where individual clients are concerned, if possible we will take account of the client's means in agreeing fees. Where possible, work is delegated to more junior fee-earners.
We are happy to consider charging fixed fees for certain drafting and advisory work in relation to non-contentious matters and this often proves the preferred and the most appropriate option for clients.
In relation to contentious matters, we usually prefer to charge on an hourly basis. However, we are nonetheless able in some circumstances to cap our fees, or to agree fixed fees, in relation to stages of litigation. We do not tend to take cases on a 'no-win, no fee' basis.
The work we undertake
The usual stages in a contentious tribunal matter are:
- taking your initial instructions/drafting a pre-action letter of claim/response (sometimes)
- early conciliation
- settlement discussions (which can take place at any stage)
- drafting grounds of claim/response
- dealing with disclosure and schedules of loss
- directions/preliminary hearing
- any other interim applications to the tribunal
- preparing a trial bundle
- witness statements
- list of issues
- preparation for trial/instructing counsel
It is difficult to assess cost for a 'typical' employment tribunal case, as there is no such thing. However, in relation to the most common type of claim with which we deal - unfair dismissal - the fees incurred by an employer client or employee client instructing us are likely to be in the region of £6,000 - £10,000, excluding VAT and disbursements (typically counsel's fees), and assuming the case goes all the way to trial. (Many claims settle beforehand).
Wrongful dismissal claims, involving insufficient notice, are generally more straightforward. However, high-value wrongful dismissal claims will often need to be brought in the courts (see below) because of the cap on contractual damages claims, unless they can be brought as claims for unlawful deductions of wages.
Complicating factors, which tend to increase fees, are where the matter is not straightforward. A whistle-blowing automatic unfair dismissal claim (which may include an unlawful detriment claim), or a claim for unlawful discrimination, for example, tend to be more legally complex and require a greater degree of supporting/opposing evidence than an 'ordinary' unfair dismissal claim, resulting in higher fees. Clients will then generally be looking at £10,000 to £20,000 (excluding VAT and disbursements).
Fees also increase when an application to the tribunal is necessary (or made by the other side), or if there is a preliminary hearing.
Any proceedings concerning restrictive covenants or confidential information, or high-value bonus/commission claims, will be heard in the courts, which means court fees will be incurred, and court proceedings tend to require more work, and sometimes involve remedies other than damages, such as injunctions, and so fees tend to be higher again (as will the likely value of the claim).
Clients sometimes have legal expenses insurance (for example through household insurance), or trade union membership which will cover a contribution toward legal fees, or they may be able to approach a legal expenses funder (although the latter is rarer).
It is worth bearing in mind that whilst costs usually 'follow the event' in court proceedings (i.e. the winner usually pays all or most of the loser's costs), costs awards are rare in employment tribunal proceedings and so clients should generally expect not to be able to recover their costs from the other side in such proceedings.
Tribunal proceedings are usually listed for hearing within four to six months of being issued. This timescale depends on how busy the tribunal centre is, how long the hearing will be listed for and whether the proceedings require a three-member tribunal (e.g. where there are whistle-blowing or discrimination claims).
- Richard Berry, Partner and Head of Employment (8 years' PQE; non-practising barrister, called to the Bar in March 2004)
- Helena Antoniou, Junior Partner (4 years' PQE)
- Katie Ashton, Associate Solicitor