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A recent outing for an old decision of how to approach the question of whether a solicitor’s agreement with their client is fair and reasonable.

In re Stuart, ex parte Cathcart [1893] 2 QB 201 ( (the Attorneys’ and Solicitors’ Act 1870) Lord Esher said that,
‘…the Court may enforce an agreement if it appears that it is in all respects fair and reasonable. With regard to the fairness of such an agreement, it appears to me that this refers to the mode of obtaining the agreement, and that if a solicitor makes an agreement with a client who fully understands and appreciates that agreement that satisfies the requirement as to fairness. But the agreement must also be reasonable, and in determining whether it is so the matters covered by the expression “fair” cannot be re-introduced. As to this part of the requirements of the statute, I am of opinion that the meaning is that when an agreement is challenged the solicitor must not only satisfy the Court that the agreement was absolutely fair with regard to the way in which it was obtained, but must also satisfy the Court that the terms of that agreement are reasonable. If in the opinion of the Court they are not reasonable having regard to the kind of work the solicitor has to do under the agreement, the Court are bound to say that the solicitor, and an officer of the Court, has no right to an unreasonable payment for the work he has done and ought not to have made an agreement for remuneration in such a manner.’

This decision makes the point that the agreement must:
(a) be fair as to the manner in which it was entered into; and
(b) be reasonable as to its terms.

In re Stuart has had two recent outings
(i) Bolt Burdon Solicitors v Tariq [2016] EWHC 811 (QB) – a case on setting aside non-contentious business agreements; and
(ii) Vilvarajah v West London Law Limited [2017] EWHC B23 (Costs) – dealing with setting aisde contentious business agreements.

 

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