Kerry Underwood

SIGNING SOLICITORS’ BILLS

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The relevant legislation is Section 69 of the Solicitors Act 1974 and the signature requirements are dealt with in Section 69 (2A) which reads:

“(2A) a bill is signed in accordance with this subsection if it is –

(a) signed by the solicitor or on his behalf by an employee of the solicitor authorized by him to sign, or

(b) enclosed in, or accompanied by, a letter which is signed as mentioned in paragraph (a) and refers to the bill.”

 

There is no further reference to authorization and thus that is entirely an internal matter and, in my view, as a matter of common law and general construction that authorization could be retrospective.

Certainly the client does not need to be informed that that employee is authorized by the solicitor to sign bills.

Section 69 (2A)(b) goes further and states that the bill is signed in accordance with the subsection if the bill is enclosed in, or accompanied by, a letter which is signed by the solicitor or by an employee of the solicitor authorized by him to sign.

For all intents and purposes the bill can be signed by anyone.

Section 69(2)(b) also requires the bill to be delivered in accordance with Section 69(2)(C) and that section reads:

 

“(2C) a bill is delivered in accordance with this subsection –

(a) it is delivered to the party to be charged with the bill personally;

(b) it is delivered to that party by being sent to him by post to, or left for him at, his place of business, dwelling house or last known place of abode, or

(c) it is delivered to that party –

(i) by means of an electronic communications network, or

(ii) by other means but in a form nevertheless requires the use of apparatus by the recipient to render it intelligible,

and that party has indicated to the person making the delivery his willingness to accept delivery of a bill sent in the form and manner used.

 

That last part appears to me to apply to both Section 69(2C)(c) (i) and (ii) and thus there is a requirement that the recipient of the bill has indicated willingness to accept delivery by email or in any other non-personal or non-postal form.

Section 69(2D) then provides that any indication given under Section 69(2C)(c) must state the address to be used and must be accompanied by such other information that person requires for the making of the delivery and may be modified or withdrawn at any time by a notice given to that person.

Section 69(2E) creates a statutory presumption that where a bill is proved to have been delivered in compliance with the requirements of sub-sections (2A) and (2C), it is not necessary in the first instance for the solicitor to prove the contents of the bill and it is to be presumed, until the contrary is shown, to be a bill bona fide complying with the Act.

Overall that represents a major relaxation of the earlier law.

Section 69(5) provides that references to an electronic signature are to be read in accordance with Section 7(2) of the Electronic Communications Act 2000. Section 69(6) provides that “Electronic Communications Network” has the same meaning as in the Communications Act 2003.

Section 7 of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 reads as follows:

“7.          Electronic signatures and related certificates.

(1) In any legal proceedings—

(a) an electronic signature incorporated into or logically associated with a particular electronic communication or particular electronic data, and

(b) the certification by any person of such a signature, shall each be admissible in evidence in relation to any question as to the authenticity of the communication or data or as to the integrity of the communication or data.

(2) For the purposes of this section an electronic signature is so much of anything in electronic form as—

(a) is incorporated into or otherwise logically associated with any electronic communication or electronic data; and

(b) purports to be used by the individual creating it to sign.

(3) For the purposes of this section an electronic signature incorporated into or associated with a particular electronic communication or particular electronic data is certified by any person if that person (whether before or after the making of the communication) has made a statement confirming that—

(a) the signature,

(b) a means of producing, communicating or verifying the signature, or

(c)a procedure applied to the signature, is (either alone or in combination with other factors) a valid means of signing.”

The Communications Act 2003 has no fewer than 411 Sections and 19 Schedules and, happily, I do not think it necessary to make any further reference to it in this short advice.

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Written by kerryunderwood

October 9, 2017 at 9:39 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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