NI practice takes action to boost hourly rates

Belfast firm O’Reilly Stewart is this week campaigning to improve the hourly rate paid to Northern Ireland solicitors.

Peter Smith QC will represent the firm in front of the Taxing Master, Christopher Napier, in a hearing of objections being held on Monday and Tuesday.

The claim refers to fees for a senior partner from O’Reilly Stewart. The Crown will also be represented, by Ronnie Weatherup QC as amicus curiae.

The Taxing Master sets the hourly rate for party-to-party costs in the High Court. The current flat rate is £45, making Northern Ireland solicitors the lowest paid in the UK.

Objections to the rates were first raised by solicitors in June 1993 and again in November 1994, but were rejected by the Northern Ireland Taxing Master in October 1995.

The evidence at this week’s hearing will focus on the preliminary results of a survey recently carried out by the Law Society of Northern Ireland, in which about a quarter of all firms in Northern Ireland disclosed their rates.

The survey revealed that the average hourly fee for a solicitor in the province is in the region of £70.

If unsuccessful, the claim will be taken to the High Court this autumn.