How to claim back unpaid professional fees

If you need this guidance in a language other than English or in alternative formats, please contact us and we will provide it for you. If you need extra help with making a claim we will work with someone who has your permission to represent you, such as a new solicitor or legal advisor, or a member of Citizens Advice or other support agency.

This page contains guidance on how to claim back money owed from general client losses.

Before you start to make a claim, please read our general guidance on the claims process.

You may also find this other guidance useful:

Claiming back your fees

If you are an agent, expert or barrister and the firm has been closed by us, you may be able to make a claim on our Compensation Fund if the firm was in receipt of money specifically to discharge your fees. A decision by us to close a firm may be published.

You will need to show that the regulated person or firm dishonestly misappropriated the money or that you have or are suffering loss and hardship as a result of their failure to account for the money.

We will try to find out if the regulated person or firm received money specifically to pay your fees. We may not be able to do this if the bill has been outstanding for some time. If you are unable to obtain evidence of this, we may reject your application.

What we need from you

Please provide us with

  • copies of all unpaid bills
  • the name of the client on behalf of whom the legal adviser acted, and
  • details of the case (for example, litigation, divorce)
  • the date your bill was first delivered, and
  • documentary evidence to show that you are suffering hardship, if your application is on the basis that the legal adviser has failed to account for money due to you.

For more information, please contact us.

You can also report a solicitor or legal adviser to us for non-payment of professional fees (such as agent or expert fees) if

  • you have a County Court judgment in respect of the fee, and
  • the judgment relates to the practice in connection with providing a legal service.

Professional obligations

In some circumstances, a legal adviser has a professional obligation to send or return money to you—for example, if they have given a promise to do so (known as an "undertaking"). If you think a legal adviser may be in breach of a professional obligation, you can report it to us.

If you are a barrister

If you are a barrister and are owed money as a result of an outstanding fee note you can apply to us  to consider your claim if you were instructed in

  • a private matter; or
  • a publicly-funded matter, where you were not to be paid directly by the Legal Aid Agency (LAA).

In either case, you must be able to show the firm had received money specifically to discharge your fees.

If you were instructed in a publicly-funded matter in which you were to be paid directly by the LAA, you should apply to the LAA.