The thorny issue of a client’s rights to a Solicitors Act 1974 assessment of fees has raised its head again recently in Masters v Charles Fussell & Co LLP. Quite rightly within that statute are timelines or limits on the client’s rights to such an assessment. A client cannot reasonably turn around months, or even years, after the event … Continue reading Assessment of fees under the Solicitors Act 1974: Masters v Charles Fussell and Co LLP
Despite the very many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, many costs lawyers are reporting that they are busier than ever. I am also pleased to report that the Association of Costs Lawyers’ (ACL) latest survey also found that the profession is becoming increasingly comfortable with the electronic bill of costs. Some 126 costs lawyers (approximately … Continue reading One third of costs lawyers “busier than ever” despite COVID-19
As a costs lawyer, one of the topics I like to bore my solicitor clients with is Part 36 and its wider implications. Used correctly, a well-thought-through approach to Part 36 offers can see early resolution of disputes and considerable costs savings, and in the absence of a resolution a well-pitched Part 36 offer can … Continue reading The benefits of Part 36: all or nothing or some?
While the general rule under CPR 44.2 is that the unsuccessful party should pay the successful party’s costs, the court may make a different order. Further, the consequences of CPR 38.6 may lead to a departure from this general rule. Sometimes it is difficult to establish whether there has been a successful or unsuccessful party, … Continue reading The costs dilemma in claims against multiple defendants
On 16 September 2020, Practical Law Dispute Resolution reported that the Civil Justice Council (CJC) established a Working Group, chaired by Stewart J, to conduct an evidence-based review of the basis and amount of the guideline hourly rates (GHRs). The establishment of the Working Group was swiftly followed by a “request for evidence”, with the … Continue reading The waning relevance of the guideline hourly rates
We have been living with budgeting and costs management for over seven years. There have been some unpleasant growing pains as practitioners have learnt the sometimes harsh reality of the significance of the rules, and a failure to comply with them. I have been surprised that, whilst practitioners have adjusted to the need of budgeting, … Continue reading Costs management: “teeing off” for the autumn
Costs professionals regularly receive questions about certain aspects of inter partes assessments, such as the amount of recoverable interest and myriad issues surrounding costs budgeting. Most will have ready answers. However, there remain areas where even the most experienced of those in our field require clarification. Master Gordon-Saker’s judgment in Marbrow v Sharpes Garden Services … Continue reading Costs capping and questions of interest: Marbrow v Sharpes Garden Services Ltd
As result of the new Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) Standards and Regulations issued in November 2019, which replaced the SRA Handbook, solicitors are required to comply with paragraph 8.7 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs and paragraph 7.1 (c) of the SRA Code of Conduct for Firms. In addition, there … Continue reading Ensure your evidence, costs information and options from day one
The Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO), like all courts, has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. As with many other courts, the SCCO is doing its level best to keep the wheels of justice turning, by embracing remote hearings, electronic filing, and new practices. The court is coping well, likely assisted by … Continue reading A costs lawyer’s guide to the SCCO during COVID-19
The grim reaches of COVID-19 are affecting all corners of society in a way that few could have imagined even 12 weeks ago. With a vaccine deemed unlikely to be readily available this year, the mantra we will be getting used to over the next few weeks relates to the need to create a “new … Continue reading Remote hearings in costs proceedings: the new normal?
As we all attempt to navigate the changes to our world at present and adjust to the challenges presented, it is clear that everyone has been, and continues to be, affected by the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Until the indemnity principle disappears, there will always be the need to make sure that the retainer between solicitor and client is clear. This was again highlighted in the recent judgment of Deputy Master Friston in Anthony v Collins.
Skimming through the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors introduced in November last year, I am tasked with considering any costs implications thereof. This is not something that I have had to consider before, as knowing there was/is a code, and merely checking the relevant provisions when referenced, would usually have been enough for a … Continue reading SRA Code of Conduct: costs implications for solicitors
The guideline hourly rates (GHR) are coming up to an unwelcome ten year anniversary since the last time they were updated.
With its introduction as part of the Jackson reforms in April 2013, costs budgeting was intended to be used as a tool to streamline the costs procedure in litigation by active court management of parties’ costs from an early stage. In theory, if a receiving party litigates within an approved costs budget, only those costs … Continue reading Approval of budgets
Anything electronic has always been controversial and can leave people feeling excluded. Certainly it seems that this is how the vast majority of practitioners feel when looking in on the new electronic bill of costs.
As another summer draws to a close we can all recall the newsworthy computer glitches and strikes which caused a great many flights to be delayed or cancelled, causing disruption and inconvenience to thousands of travellers.
There has been a noticeable rise in the number of unhappy clients challenging their solicitors’ bills, particularly in personal injury cases, at least to judge by various rulings from the County Court right up to the Court of Appeal (Herbert v HH Law).
It is bewildering when it appears that what should be a fundamental and straightforward understanding of law and practice nevertheless generates arguments before the court, with a consequent expenditure of substantial time and resources. One of these fundamental elements is for a lawyer to know not only what they can charge but also what to … Continue reading The importance of understanding basic costs principles
It has been some time since the electronic bill of costs has been compulsory and those that have been prepared this way are beginning to surface at court. Although I have not personally had the pleasure of testing one yet, I did have an interesting opening point in Oxford County Court recently and I have … Continue reading Testing the electronic bill of costs at court
A Part 36 offer (pre-issue) which imposes a condition as to costs is not a valid offer, HHJ Matthews (sitting as a High Court judge) held in Knight and another v Knight and others.
Costs lawyers may generally operate behind the scenes, but a recent case in the Senior Courts Costs Office provides a useful reminder of our professional status and the important role we play in the resolution of costs disputes.
The ongoing saga surrounding personal injury firms’ tussles with costs recovery specialists has resulted in some important guidance for solicitors on permissible fee arrangements. The implications on the charging structures for the sector could be profound, especially in respect of conditional fee agreements (CFAs) and the charging of success fees.
In November 2016, the then Jackson LJ was commissioned by the Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls to explore the possibility of extending the fixed recoverable costs regime with the aim of promoting transparency in civil litigation and access to justice for litigants. This was not a task undertaken lightly, with Jackson LJ … Continue reading New Practice Direction 51W: two-year voluntary capped costs list pilot scheme
In Playboy Club London Ltd v Banca Nazionale del Lavora SpA, leave was given to amend particulars of claim to add the adverse costs of a previously unsuccessful related negligence claim involving the same parties.
Solicitors continue to rack up costs in excess of court-approved budgets, but there are signs of improvement, according to the survey of my fellow costs lawyers.
The High Court’s decision in Raja v Hoogstraten and others, and in particular the claimant’s application to set aside a previous costs order made in favour of the defendants pursuant to CPR 40.8A, highlights the circumstances and grounds required to set aside an order under CPR 40.8A, yet fails to provide real clarity for the profession.
Proportionality may not be the only issue to debate in the costs world right now, but it’s probably the biggest one.
Proportionality is something that is considered from the pre-action stage, right through to assessment of costs. It has become a term that is familiar to some and feared by many. On 1 April 2013, a new test of proportionality came in to force by virtue of CPR 44.3(2)(a), whereby costs that are disproportionate in amount … Continue reading Proportionality: the new political correctness
It is now 11 years since the Legal Services Act 2007 (LSA) was passed and eight since the regulatory regime it created fully came into being. And still, unfortunately, there are those elsewhere in the legal profession who do not recognise the difference between costs lawyers and costs draftsmen.
Earlier this year, the High Court ruled that a Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO) master was entitled to stay a consent order relating to detailed assessment because the clients were planning professional negligence proceedings against the solicitors.
We are five months into the compulsory electronic bill of costs and so far all is quiet. Obviously it will take time before cases affected by the change hit the courts, but research undertaken by the Association of Costs Lawyers has shown that many solicitors and judges were not ready for the new bill when … Continue reading Were lawyers ready for the electronic bill of costs?
Fixed costs (and how to avoid them) have been a hot topic in recent months. Earlier this year, in Bratek v Clark-Drain Ltd, the High Court found that it was not possible to contract out of the fixed costs regime attaching to the Road Traffic Accident (RTA) and Employers’ Liability/Product Liability (EL/PL) protocols by providing … Continue reading Fixed costs and accepting a Part 36 offer: Hislop v Perde
Since their introduction in 2013, the pre-action protocols for low-value personal injury claims have been fertile ground for costs jurisprudence, particularly cases involving receiving parties’ attempts to circumvent the fixed costs regime in CPR 45.
The question of whether a reduction in hourly rates for incurred costs is a good reason to do the same to budgeted costs is a big one at the moment, absent higher court authority. Recently, Master Rowley in the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO) had his say, and joined what seems to be the majority … Continue reading Reduction in hourly rates for incurred costs: Jallow v Ministry of Defence
The issue of funding is often one which causes satellite litigation. Indeed, it may have been one of the driving factors behind the civil justice reforms. When the ideas of Jackson LJ were enshrined into legislation in the form of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO), it was envisaged that … Continue reading Switching from legal aid to CFA: Surrey v Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust
The new form electronic bill, coming into force tomorrow (6 April 2018), is “bound to save time and costs” and soon “people will be amazed that we had put up with the old paper-based bill for so long”, Jackson LJ predicted as he reflected on his reforms ahead of his retirement from the bench on … Continue reading E-day arrives
In May 2017, Master Rowley handed down judgment in Tucker v Griffiths and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, dealing with various issues arising as preliminary points in a detailed assessment. The case centred on an alleged mis-certification of the claimant’s budget and, flowing from that, also dealt with hourly rates and good reason to depart … Continue reading Incurred costs: Tucker v Griffiths and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Though the article and the decision in May and another v Wavell Group Ltd and another contains nods to Queen (the case involves guitarist Brian May), ultimately it relates to Jackson LJ’s vision of proportionality and the differing interpretations that have followed.
Costs budgeting, as we know it today, has been around for less than four years. It was only last June in Harrison v University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust that the Court of Appeal provided much needed clarification on the approach to be adopted by costs judges on detailed assessment on departing from approved … Continue reading Our survey says: ACL’s findings on costs budgeting
Am I being overcharged? That is the question that many business and private clients are now asking. There is an increasing demand for advice from costs lawyers, solicitors and barristers specialising in costs law, with the aim, in this time of austerity, to challenge solicitors’ claims for costs and hopefully secure a saving. All solicitors … Continue reading Harrison v Eversheds: how much should the client pay?
In the past, perhaps the mention of costs budgeting itself was good reason for many a law practitioner to depart hastily from a conversation. However, this complex issue has been further complicated by the inevitable fall-out of the decision in Harrison v University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust, where the Court of Appeal determined … Continue reading Budgeting: a good reason to depart?
The Court of Appeal’s recent ruling in Harrison v University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust was not so much a gentle nudge to solicitors on the importance of costs budgeting, but a sharp elbow in the ribs.
You are faced with a claim for personal injuries and you make a Part 36 offer with a view to affording costs protection. It transpires that your Part 36 offer is successful and you look to recover your costs. By way of illustration:
Back in 2009, my client, a multinational law firm, obtained an award for costs in a piece of litigation for the European Central Bank. Needless to say, its client was invoiced in euros, by reference to euro hourly rates, yet the assessment of costs proceeded by reference to figures converted into sterling.
By the end of 2015, the majority of litigation practitioners had become accustomed to the intricacies of costs management. Whilst the occasional surprise continued to occur before some district judges, after almost three years the majority of kinks in the system had been resolved. However, the status quo was upset in January 2016 by the … Continue reading Sarpd Oil International v Addax Energy SA and another: managing the costs of a changing landscape
A new format for the good old bill of costs is sneaking up on the profession with increasing speed.
We are more than three years into costs management and it is fair to say that lawyers are still a long way from getting fully to grips with the practice.
The widely reported chief Chancery master’s decision in Signia Wealth Ltd v Marlborough Trust Company Ltd & another indicates a marked departure in approach by the court from the early days of the Jackson reforms and costs budgeting.
Any advice given to clients should be tempered, as far as possible, with how that advice may impact on them in the future, as well as with how a judge might view that advice in determining the reasonableness of a decision taken on its basis. To my knowledge, nobody has a crystal ball to see into the future, … Continue reading Mediate or not, that is the question
Every year the Association of Costs Lawyers undertakes a survey of members. This year we received 126 responses, which amounts to more than a fifth of our membership.
This is a key question that has been asked by many civil litigation practitioners, particularly following implementation of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO).
Since costs management was introduced in April 2013, one of its key difficulties has been the strain that it has placed on the court’s resources. In part, this is due to often hotly contested arguments over the party’s respective budgets. The pressure became so great in the RCJ that cost budgeting in clinical negligence matters … Continue reading Costs management changes in the 83rd CPR update: increased opportunity for agreement