A remuneration certificate is a form that a client fills out to request a bill from a solicitor that lists the specific legal costs charged to his account. By law in the UK, solicitors are required to make a remuneration certificate available to clients upon request. If a client disputes the charges listed on the bill, he can take the matter to a formal legal agency with the authority to decide if the charges are fair or should be reduced.
Legal services can be expensive. Charges are often assessed by the hour at rates that differ, depending upon the person working on the case. Clients are sometimes surprised by the cost of services and can end the advocacy relationship feeling they have been overcharged for services that were not specifically authorized.
The UK has adopted a process to handle this scenario. By law, every client has a right to request a detailed accounting from his solicitor and to have that accounting reviewed by an impartial third party. Under this process, the client fills out a remuneration certificate, a form that requires the solicitor to provide a detail of charges. The remuneration certificate goes to an agency that is authorized to review the charges and determine if they are fair. For example, in the UK, this process is handled by the Legal Complaints Service, and, in Ireland, the process is handled by the Law Society.
Clients usually have a specific time period to initiate this process. They often have 30 days from the time they were notified of their right to request the certificate by their solicitor. If a client was never notified of this right, he has usually has up to three months to request a certificate from the time he received his bill. The independent agency can check the bill and make a determination, as long as the case has not gone to court. Review of the bill is typically free and takes several months.
The independent agency can decide to reduce the bill or leave it the same. It will never increase the bill. If the client's case went to court, however, the remuneration certificate must be reviewed by the court. This process is not free, and the party making the request must typically pay court fees, especially if the bill is upheld.
Although the agency review of a remuneration certificate cannot result in an increase of the client's bill, the solicitor can charge interest on the outstanding payment. If a client wants to avoid this charge, he has the option of paying the bill but must make it clear in writing that the payment is subject to the remuneration certificate process. If he pays the bill without making that stipulation clear, he can lose his right to request a review.