Every lawyer has the right to claim proper professional fees and expenses for services rendered to a client whether related to court work or otherwise. The lawyer’s fees can be agreed beforehand with the client and in the absence of an expressed agreement, in case a dispute arises, the fees can be assessed in accordance with the minimum fee provided by the relevant rules.
Normally, a client, who is represented by an advocate before the court in civil proceedings, signs a retainer according to which the lawyer is authorised either to take legal steps against another person or to defend him. The part of the retainer which refers to his remuneration is usually crossed that no expressed agreement was made and that the advocate will be paid in accordance with the scales of the civil procedure rules.
The procedure regarding the taxation of a bill of cost between an advocate and his client is provided in the civil procedure rules, according to which the Registrar is the person responsible for the taxation, provided an application is made and served to the client so that he will have sufficient time to appear at the hearing.
The aforesaid procedure is judicial and the Registrar issues thereafter a certificate whereby he certifies the cost allowed to the lawyer. Such certificate can be executed like any judgement of the court. The review of the bill of cost allowed by the Registrar can only be examined by the Court if an objection is made on a particular item of the bill and provided an application is made to the Court within seven daysfrom the date of the taxation.
The issue of taxation of a lawyer’s fee was examined by the Supreme Court in a judgment issued on 7.6.2017 in relation to an application for the issue of a certiorari annulling the decision of the Registrar of the District Court of Nicosia in respect of a bill of costs submitted by a client against his lawyer. In particular, the client signed a special retainer with the lawyer and agreed his fee. His action was settled and withdrawn from the court without any order as to costs.
The client considered his agreement with the lawyer unfair and unreasonable, since the whole procedure was completed within a short time and without the need for any hearings or other procedures or execution measures. Hence, he submitted a bill of costs to be assessed by the Registrar, which was served to the lawyer. The Registrar, before the hearing, raised the preliminary issue whether the client had such a right. She decided that she could not examine the said bill of costs, which was submitted by the client against his lawyer, since it explicitly provides that it relates to the submission of a bill of costs by a lawyer against his client and not the opposite.
The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Registrar and agreed that the parties had made an agreement for the lawyer’s fee in the action, which was duly signed and stamped and if the client considered it unfair, the Registrar could not have cancelled it.
In the present case, the client, through the application for taxation of the bill, sought to cancel the agreement with his lawyer. However, the taxation procedure is not offered to accomplish the aforesaid purpose nor can a lawyer other than the one claiming his fee apply for the taxation of a bill on behalf of his client. In these kind of cases, the lawyer is the only one who can claim the taxation and not the client.