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The cost of court action should never be ignored

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I have just seen Kim Franklin's column 'More losers than winners with no win, no fee litigation', (AJ 20.8.01) in which she argues that lawyers should not have a stake in the outcome of their cases. Her argument would be true in a perfect world, but like many lawyers, she ignores the appallingly high cost of taking legal action.

The small architectural practice, for example, when faced with a client who unreasonably withholds payment of a large fee, is hit in three ways: first they are out of pocket from the non-payment; second they would have to commit substantial resources to mount a debt-collection action;

and third, in their weakened state, they can be faced with a security for costs application, requiring them to pay yet further sums into court.

Conditional fee agreements (CFAs) are a relatively inexpensive way for an architect with a good cause to get around these problems. This is why I helped establish such a scheme for the RIBA with S JBerwin, a large firm of City solicitors.

CFAs can provide justice for architects, who otherwise would have no recourse.

Those architects who use the April 2000 edition of the RIBA's SFA/99 Architect/Client Agreement (which bars security costs for example) will find that they are more likely to have cases which lawyers will wish to take on under a CFA.

Stephen Yakeley, Yakeley Associates, London N1

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