CFA (Conditional fee arrangement): how it works

You may not have heard of the term Conditional Fee Arrangement (CFA), but you would more than likely have heard of ‘no-win, no-fee’ arrangements offered by solicitors; the two terms refer to a similar fee arrangement. A CFA solicitor is offering a client a fee structure which in essence means that if the client’s case is successful the solicitor’s fees will be payable and if unsuccessful they will not.

It is important that you understand when and how the fees under a conditional fee arrangement  will be charged and payable. If fees are payable, the CFA solicitor will ordinarily charge a ‘success fee’ in addition to their ordinary fees. The success fee may be leveraged as a percentage of the net amount you recover. Additionally, you need to be clear of what a ‘win’ is defined as, as the outcome of legal proceedings can be variable and what your CFA solicitor considers a win may not be what you had in mind.

You also need to consider when the court may order that the other side pay your legal costs. It may be that a court will order that the losing party pay your solicitor’s fees, however a court will not always award costs; even if you win your case, it is possible that you may have to pay some or all of your solicitor’s fees from the payment you receive.

If the case is unsuccessful then the CFA solicitor will not charge the client a fee for legal services tendered. However, there maybe other charges which you may be liable for, such as disbursements such as court fees or expert report costs. You may still also be liable to pay the costs of the other side if you are unsuccessful.

You may be able to obtain a solicitor on a CFA for most legal cases apart from criminal and family matters. The most popular type of cases for which a solicitor uses conditional fee arrangements are personal-injury cases. For any type of case, you will ordinarily have to pay for a ‘risk-assessment’ which entails the solicitor examining your case to determine whether you may have a viable case and whether it is one that they are willing to take on with a CFA.

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