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Is a clearly worded retainer a defence to professional negligence claims?

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This was an issue which was put under the microscope in the recent case of Sharon Minkin v Lesley Landsberg (Practising as Barnet Family Law) 2015 EWCA Civ 1152.

This case concerned a claim by a former client of the solicitor who had entered into a divorce settlement with her former husband which she now regretted. The client previously sought advice from another solicitor who advised on the settlement proposed and alternatives including mediation, negotiation and litigation. She subsequently changed solicitors and instructed the new solicitor to draft the agreement proposed which she duly signed. She then took action against the solicitor and claimed damages for professional negligence on the basis that the new solicitor failed to advise her on the detail of the agreement and warn her not to enter into it.

The Court looked at the facts of the case and it transpired that the terms of the retainer were limited to drafting the agreement only. The new solicitors task was to simply re-draft a consent order which therefore defined the limited retainer. The Court found that there was no duty to go beyond the terms of the retainer and therefore the claimant’s claim failed both at the County Court level and on appeal.

If you have any concerns about how your solicitor has conducted a case you should seek independent advice from a professional negligence solicitor. Stephensons have a dedicated team that specialises in solicitors negligence and can offer a number of funding arrangements which can include “no Win no Fee” agreements.