What are the rules regarding no-win-no-fee arrangements in Ireland?

In this country the basis upon which a solicitor and client agree the extent of the legal fee to which the solicitor will be entitled if the case is successful is a contractual matter to be agreed on between the parties. If there is a dispute between the parties it can be submitted to an official adjudication process known as taxation.

In recent years there has been a general tendency for solicitors to base their fees on the amount of time spent on the case, with a rate per hour being agreed at the outset of the case. However, some solicitors may agree a fixed fee or they may agree to take whatever fee is secured from the other side if an order for costs is made.

Section 68 of the Solicitors (Amendment) Act 1994 provides that it is professional misconduct on a solicitor’s part not to set out in writing how much they will charge for any given service or, if this is not readily ascertainable at the time of taking instructions, the basis on which these charges will be made.

Unlike the American and English models, section 68 also imposes a legal prohibition on Irish solicitors determining their charges as a percentage basis of a claimant’s award. It would therefore be illegal for a solicitor to agree to agree to take, say, 30% of the amount of damages a claimant ultimately secured.

In contentious business, a legal practitioner shall not charge any amount in respect of legal costs expressed as a percentage or proportion of any damages (or other moneys) that may become payable to his or her client or purport to set out the legal costs to be charged to a junior counsel as a specified percentage or proportion of the legal costs paid to a senior counsel. A legal practitioner shall not without the prior written agreement of his or her client deduct or appropriate any amount in respect of legal costs from the amount of any damages or moneys that become payable to the client in respect of legal services that the legal practitioner provided to the client.

John McCarthy specialises in personal injury and medical negligence claims. His practice focuses on high-value compensation cases. John qualified as a solicitor in 2003 and holds a diploma in civil litigation. This specialist qualification in the area of personal injury and medical negligence litigation, is awarded by the Law Society of Ireland.