No Win No Fee Solicitors: What’s The Catch?

emily gordon brown
Emily Gordon BrownLegal Assessment Specialist @ Lawhive
Updated on 20th November 2023

Whether you've suffered a personal accident, clinical negligence or even come across an employment law firm advertising themselves; we can almost guarantee you will have seen or heard of the phrase ‘No win, no fee’.


Let’s set the scene: a close-up camera zooms in on a puddle and captures someone dressed in a business suit tripping, slipping or falling, resulting in a sprained ankle and a wince at the camera.

The voiceover assures you that you won’t have to pay a penny if your case doesn’t win. But how true is this? We all know nothing comes for free.

In this article we explore the pros and potential cons of no win no fee arrangements with solicitors in the UK, offering valuable insights into the mechanisms and considerations when pursuing legal cases without upfront costs.

We will cover:

  • Who are no win, no fee solicitors?

  • How to determine if your claim will be successful

  • How do no win no fee cases work?

  • Is there a catch?

  • Are the costs hidden?

What is a no win, no fee solicitor?

A no win, no fee solicitor deals with claims of personal negligence. The term is a more memorable way of describing a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA). This agreement is a contract between a solicitor and their client to settle fees at the end of a case. Who pays the fees is dependent on the outcome.

No win, no fee solicitors typically specialise in CFA cases and are experts in their fields, however it always pays to do your research and compare options when looking into securing legal support. You can also look into a solicitor’s record before appointing them.

How do no win, no fee solicitors work?

No win, no fee claims have opened up legal support to many people who would not have been able to afford the advice they needed in the past. 

They minimise the risk of taking a claim to court because you won’t end up out of pocket if you don’t win.

As mentioned, no win, no fee cases are based on personal negligence claims. Being injured in an accident which is not your fault is the most common example of a personal negligence, no win, no fee case.

These types of cases are covered by Qualified One Way Costs Shifting, which states that, with some exceptions, only the loser of a case must pay legal costs.

If your case is unsuccessful, you won’t have to pay your solicitor a fee. You also typically won’t have to pay any of the other side’s fees.

Typically, if you are successful, you will pay a percentage of your settlement to your solicitor. This should be clear in the contract you sign, so make sure to do your due diligence. However, it is usually capped at 25% of your compensation.

How do I know that my claim will be successful?

There’s no guarantee that your case will win. You’ll need to be confident in your evidence and prepare well to help your solicitor fight your case. 

You can improve your chances of your case being successful by being responsive to your solicitor’s requests for evidence and acting quickly to prepare any documents required.

Initially, you’ll have a discussion with a solicitor before deciding whether to ask them to represent you. They will offer you free advice and assess your case. This includes carrying out a risk assessment to decide the best way to take your case forward, if they believe they can win it for you.

Any solicitor you speak to for advice will lay out the options for you, as there are different approaches you can take. Finding the right approach and building the right case for your circumstances will give you a better chance of succeeding.

Solicitors have to follow strict guidelines before taking you up as a client, so be prepared to provide them with the information they need.

With the necessary facts to hand, you’ll give yourself the best chance of making and winning a case.

Pros and cons of using a no win no fee lawyer

Let’s summarise the pros and cons of making a no win, no fee case.



If you don’t win, you won’t have to pay the legal fees for your solicitor’s work

If you lose you may have to pay the opponent’s costs 

You can pursue justice, when otherwise you couldn’t afford to 

There are different types of no win, no fee case, you might choose an unsuitable one

Your stress levels will be lower than a traditional case

Unscrupulous firms can hide fees

A solicitor should give you good advice -they want your case to be successful, so they get paid for their work

You may have to pay fees if you abandon your claim

What kind of claims can a no win no fee solicitor help with?

No win, no fee solicitors usually help with personal accident cases, medical negligence claims and employee law issues.

The can help with:

  • Abuse claims

  • CICA claims

  • Cosmetic surgery claims

  • Inheritance Act claims

  • Injury claims

  • Medical negligence claims

  • Professional negligence claims

What’s the catch with no win no fee solicitors?

You may have to pay expenses before you go to court. The supporting evidence that backs up your claims will need to be created and sometimes this can create costs. If you win, the other party will have to pay all your legal costs. If you lose, you won’t be reimbursed for these costs. 

It’s best to discuss this with a legal team before agreeing for them to represent you

Hidden fees in no win no fee cases

Sometimes if you lose you may be expected to pay the opponents legals costs. This can be offset by legal expense insurance, which a solicitor can help you set up before pursuing your case. Without this insurance cover you could end up paying out a lot of money. 

Your solicitor might have a shortfall if you lose your case, and they might ask you to cover these costs. This may happen if their legal costs are higher than amount the opponent is order to pay, and the other side’s legal expense insurance doesn’t cover the difference.

For instance, your legal team’s fees are £10,000, but the defendant was only asked to pay £5,000 costs.

Some cases have been known where solicitors ask their clients to pay large shortfalls. In most cases, law firms will write off shortfalls and large shortfalls are frowned upon by the legal profession. If you have had a bad experience with a no win, no fee solicitor you can make a complaint

You should always discuss with a solicitor whether they charge shortfalls and check online reviews for the word ‘deductions’.

After the event insurance

After the event (ATE) insurance is a policy that some no win, no fee legal firms will ask you to take out at the same time as entering an agreement with them to take on your case.

An ATE policy is designed to cover you in the event you lose your claim. If you do lose, your insurance rather than your law firm will pay the other side’s legal fees.

To protect your interests, you’ll want to know whether:

  • Your law firm intends to take out an ATE policy;

  • How much the premium will be;

  • If you win, will you have to pay for the policy being taken out on your behalf?

Here at Lawhive, we don't offer no win, no fee services. But we do offer affordable legal services at transparent prices. When you work with us, you only pay what you're quoted, no matter if your case is successful or not, so you'll never be hit by any surprise costs.

If you need help making a claim, our expert solicitors can start work within 48 hours. To get started, request a free case assessment and no obligation quote today and see how we can help.

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