The Price of Success: Lawyers, Clients and Conditional Fees


Conditional fees, introduced in 1995, are an innovative method of paying for legal services. If clients win their case, they pay their solicitor’s fees (usually recovered from their opponents), plus an extra percentage. If they lose, they pay none. The aim of conditional fees was to make it easier for people not eligible for legal aid but with only modest means to go to law.

This study is the first to assess how well conditional fees are working. It investigates whether concerns expressed before conditional fees were introduced are being borne out in practice. The study:

  • establishes the extent to which conditional fees are being used, by what type of firm, and in what type of case;
  • provides unique data about the level of ‘uplift’ - the extra percentage being charged by solicitors - and finds some apparent inconsistency in how these charges are calculated;
  • considers the terms of agreements made between clients and solicitors; and
  • makes recommendations about future research and monitoring of the scheme.

This report will inform solicitors, barristers, law students, legal policy makers, and everybody interested in extending access to justice in society.

ISBN: 0 85374 732 6