The last few years have seen a large emphasis on the use of technology. Businesses and law firms alike have had to adapt to meet the changing climate. An increasing number of meetings are now being held virtually, documents can easily be signed using online platforms and, most of all, emails have now become the most preferred method of communication in a business.

Therefore, many law firms have opted to communicate and serve proceedings using emails as this is time efficient, saves costs and advances sustainability. However, the question remains: is service by email valid?

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REUTERS | Mike Blake

The Civil Justice Council is consulting on a wholesale revision of the civil costs regime; the consultation ends at 12 noon on Friday 30 September 2022.

In the last piece, I looked at pre-action costs and the interplay with fixed recoverable costs due to be extended in April 2023.

Here, I look at the connected issues of costs budgeting and guideline hourly rates, and in each case, the consultation paper asks whether they should be abolished altogether.

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REUTERS | Denis Balibouse

Ask around the litigation department of any law firm and someone will have a story about a time they had their fingers burnt when seeking, or having obtained, funding. You’ll hear tales of tensions and misunderstandings, which created inefficiency and disillusionment. Ultimately, it may have meant a client’s case never got off the ground. That’s in nobody’s interest.

Having recently moved to a litigation funder after two decades in a private practice firm, I’m starting to appreciate both perspectives. There’s a responsibility on both lawyers and funders to make the process easier and more transparent. Each has an important role to play in facilitating strong legal claims and reaching appropriate outcomes for clients.

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REUTERS | Brian Snyder

Many of the 27,000 civil litigators are blissfully unaware that, from April 2023, most of their workload will be subject to fixed recoverable costs, but that may only be the beginning of a wholesale – holistic in the words of the Civil Justice Council – shakeup of every aspect of the civil costs system.

The Civil Justice Council issued a consultation paper in June 2022 and the consultation ends at noon on Friday 30 September 2022.

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REUTERS | Phil Noble

Class or collective actions have not been a prevalent feature of the English legal system and the viability of such actions before the English and Welsh courts has been limited, at least historically. The concept of large group actions conjures up thoughts of Hollywood courtroom dramas or bumper cash payouts following high-profile corporate scandals, which climaxed with the record-breaking package in 2008 of USD 7.2 billion payable to the eligible shareholders of the collapsed energy giant, Enron. However, if recent high-profile cases are anything to go by, then group actions are shaping up to become a more regular tool deployed in legal proceedings in England and Wales.

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In Loreley Financing (Jersey) No 30 Ltd v Credit Suisse Securities (Europe) Ltd, Mr Justice Robin Knowles QC provides a helpful two-part test to clarify whether the identity of those providing instructions to solicitors can be covered by litigation privilege.

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REUTERS | Toby Melville

The judgment in MBR Acres Ltd and others v Maher and another handed down in May 2022 by Mr Justice Nicklin raised an important issue around personal service. The case arose following committal applications that came out of an injunction obtained by the claimants against animal rights protesters who had set up camp outside their premises. The injunction included the imposition of an exclusion zone around the premises and restrictions on not stopping cars from entering or leaving it. Two protesters breached the injunction.

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REUTERS | Sarah Silbiger

When Guideline Hourly Rates (GHR) came into force, they did so with the directive that they be “used as a starting point for judges carrying out summary assessment of costs” (Civil Justice Council’s Annual Report 2019-2020) and that “these guideline rates are broad approximations to be used only as a starting point for judges carrying out summary assessment.” 

Whilst the notes in the White Book refer to the fact that “a rate in excess of the guideline figures may be appropriate”, these decisions demonstrate a worrying trend that it is becoming increasingly difficult to persuade the courts to depart from the GHR.

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REUTERS | Maxim Shemetov

Cast your mind back to the old days, when the world was young (to which Ritchie J drew the legal profession’s attention in Edwards v Slater and Gordon at paragraph 33) and legal aid was available to enable plaintiffs (as claimants then were) to fund personal injury (PI) claims. On a loss, it was generally the case that plaintiffs did not contribute to the successful defendants’ costs and the Legal Aid Fund met their own solicitors’ fees out of public funds. As the world grew older, in 1999, the government passed the Access to Justice Act 1999which removed legal aid as a means of funding PI claims except in clinical negligence. In its place, conditional fee agreements (CFAs) were permitted which allowed a success fee to be recovered on a win, with adverse costs in a losing case to be met by after the event (ATE) insurance.

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