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Archive for October 2nd, 2011

Dear Reader,

In an act of selfless bravery in the face of the enemy worthy of Dr Strangelove of Muttley Dastardly LLP, I bring you news of world class lawyering from Payne Hicks Beach partner, Baroness Shackleton of Belgravia – she of the high value  divorce client fame who had a jug of water poured over her head by Sir Paul’s less than amused ex-wife.  I am more than prepared to accept that the article I refer to in The Telegraph below may not (entirely) accurately reflect the ‘actualité’ – for it is not unknown for newspapers to get their facts wrong when it comes to reporting on M’learned friends – but it does refer to direct contact with the firm and prints their responses.

The Telegraph reports: Baroness Shackleton, Britain’s highest-profile divorce lawyer, has increased the bills of celebrity clients beyond the time she recorded having spent on their cases, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

“Madonna and Sir Paul McCartney appear to have been charged hundreds of thousands of pounds more than the hourly rate would have demanded, documents show, a practice known as “marking up”…..The sheets, seen by The Daily Telegraph appear to show that a six-figure sum was added to bills of both Madonna and Sir Paul, as well as at least seven other clients in a column headed ”mark up’’.

It would appear that the law firm – and it may well be an industry wide practice – agree an hourly fee with the client and, presumably, dissatisfied with the amount of revenue generated by the work actually done or recorded, add a bit of extra bunce?  The Telegraph notes : “Lady Shackleton’s law firm, Payne Hicks Beach, came under investigation in 2009, but the Solicitors Regulatory Authority closed the case less than a year later without ordering any sanctions. The authority interviewed her about her practice of marking up bills and asked her to explain if there was any “scientific” basis for calculating the sums she added.”

What I particularly enjoyed about this story – the irony of the front page of the  Payne Hicks Beach website this afternoon entirely relevant to the context of this Telegraph story – were these wonderful quotes….

In one case a £14,000 bill for work on the former Beatle’s divorce from Heather Mills shows a “mark up” to £150,000. Both Madonna and Sir Paul have confirmed that they were happy with Lady Shackleton’s representation and satisfied with the billing.

The disclosure will give rise to concerns about the transparency of solicitors’ billing practices.

AND THIS… is truly world class…in the context of a bill presented to Madonna…

In a private email to a colleague she wrote: “This is good news as I was worried that they were cross about the bill,” she wrote, adding: “We obviously shd have asked for more?!!!!! F x.”

Payne Hicks Beach said the email was a joke. “We would have thought it is obvious that the internal email dated 15 December 2008 was intended to be humorous, from its punctuation alone.” Last night a spokesman for the law firm said all the clients had confirmed they were happy with their bills.

The problem is, clearly, one of administration and transparency.  It would seem that some solicitors do not accurately record all the work done (which is a bit worrying) and come to a view with ‘mark up’ later.  Well… all I can say is this… if the client is daft enough to accept such a procedure, they have more money than sense and it is their loss – BUT  if they are ‘too in awe’ of lawyers, it is time for the regulators to get tough.  Payne Hicks Beach certainly appear to have demonstrated their website ‘mission statement’  – Independent thinking and cost effective solutions – to their own satisfaction and benefit?  (And… I just love the gushing well of plenty metaphor on the PHB website front page – CLASS!)

On that note, if it transpires that The Telegraph story is another example of inaccurate press reporting, I will be more than happy to update my post accordingly with a statement from Payne Hicks Beach.

Meanwhile… on the HOTTEST 2nd October since the dinosaurs were wiped out…The Beserkers in the Tory party ‘gather’ in Manchester to talk at each other…

It can only be a matter of hours before some Tory politician provides a statement rich in satirical opportunity… I am eating popcorn and watching the BBC Parliament channel in anticipaaaaaation…… as they say in The Rocky Horror Show.

I may be back later.

Best, as ever

Charon

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