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Lord Justice Jackson’s Preliminary Report on Civil Litigation Costs was published on 8 May 2009. I did not immediately rush to comment on this report for three reasons:
- The Report runs to almost 700 pages plus appendices and takes some reading.
- Given the importance of this report to the future of the legal costs system it seemed appropriate to give some time to reflect on the Report before rushing to reach any conclusions.
- I was on holiday when the Report was first published.
The first thing to note about this report is how truly masterful it is in its scope, clarity and ambition. Jackson LJ, and those who have assisted in its writing, are to be congratulated on their work. If nothing else, large sections of this report should be compulsory reading as an introduction to the basics of the current costs system.
Over coming posts I will comment on key aspects of this report. These will focus on the elements that will potentially have the widest impact on the legal profession. Inevitably, this will mean some important but niche areas, such as defamation, will not be covered.
Jackson LJ is under no illusions when he states in his opening comments to the Report: “Whatever I may recommend at the end of this year (and at this stage I still have an open mind) one thing is inevitable. My final report will generate protest from at least some directions and quite possibly all directions. … This report does not reach any firm conclusions”. This passage contains two important warnings. Firstly, the Preliminary Report is intended to do no more than set the background and identify the issues that need to be determined. The Report does contain some tentative conclusions and one could read too much or too little into these. However, nothing has yet been decided. Secondly, Jackson LJ does not seem to be afraid to upset certain groups and no doubt sees such an outcome as an inevitable part of any proper overhaul of the current system. His comment that: “The personal injury litigation industry is populated by numerous interest groups and middlemen, all of whom have to meet their overheads and make a profit on top. If any layer of activity can be removed from the process … it may be thought that this will serve the public interest”, should have particular concern not only to ATE insurers but also claimant solicitors dealing with low value claims, costs draftsmen and other costs professionals.
The next two stages of the Costs Review are:
May to July: Phase 2 – consultation
September to December: Phase 3 – preparation of final report
I will comment on some of the specific issues in more detail and the potential options considered over the coming days.
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