Costs Law Reports – Online Launch


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I previously commented on the relaunch of Costs Law Reports (see post).

Yesterday they launched the associated new website.  The Legal Costs Blog had been granted a sneak advance preview but they have clearly been busy over the last day or two making further improvements.

The site provides access to all cases reported by Costs Law Reports, being almost 700 cases to date.  In addition to recent decisions, these include such fundamental older costs law cases as Gundry v Sainsbury, Meday Oil and Storage Co Ltd v Continental Contractors Ltd and Brush v Bower Cotton & Bower (a Firm).

Although I don’t do criminal work myself, the large number of criminal cases reported, that are not available elsewhere, will be invaluable for those who do.

The site has a useful and intuitive search function.  Although the "keyword" option could probably do with a bit of work (it currently being based on the index from the print version) there is an excellent and very powerful ordinary text search.

PDFs of judgments are also available for easy printing and taking to court.

Wendy Popplewell, Association of Law Costs Draftsmen Chairman, says: "Costs Law Reports are absolutely vital for all costs draftsmen. The expert editors, Master Rogers and Michael Bacon, discover and report so many cases which are either not reported elsewhere or not reported for a very long time. I know that they have been sorely missed by many of our members since their publication faltered late in 2008. We are delighted that Class Legal have committed to getting the publication back on track, and will be offering an improved service."

At only £299.95 plus VAT for the online service, this has got to be a winner.  Pay a visit: Costs Law Reports.

ILEX Directory


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Those who act for paying parties are no doubt familiar with the Law Society’s Find a solicitor (see link) site that enables a check to be done on when a solicitor qualified.  This is an invaluable tool for checking PQE and whether a fee earner therefore qualifies for a particular grade of hourly rate.

The ILEX website also has a directory (see link) but until relatively recently it did not give the date of qualification as a Fellow. It now does and is therefore another useful tool for paying parties to ensure they are not paying too much. 

But seriously…


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The Legal Costs Blog prides itself on its honesty and integrity.  However, I have a small confession to make.  Our recent announcement of the launch of Legal Costs TV (see post) was a spoof announcement.  The clue was in the fact the announcement, that coincided with a press release, was made on 1st April.
 
I’ll spare their blushes by not naming some of those who fell for this one, including a number of high profile individuals. 
 
The Law Society Gazette enjoyed this one and reported it in the Obiter section (see link).
 
What was interesting about those taken in by the spoof is that they clearly thought the idea of a channel devoted entirely to the subject of legal costs law was plausible.  On reflection, they may be right.  In 2009 there were 764 members of the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen.  For Costs Lawyers they are required to undertake at least 12 hours Continuing Professional Development.  There are large numbers of solicitors, barristers and insurers who also need to keep up to date with developments in the legal costs world.  That is before you include the large number of unregulated costs draftsmen, legal costs negotiators, etc who also need to keep up to date with costs law. 
 
Although a TV station entirely devoted to the subject might be pushing it, the growing use of podcasts and webinars suggests that may be where the future lies.  If anyone was going to launch this, who better than the Legal Costs Blog?  Last month our website received over 22,500 unique visits and we have a growing number of subscribers to the Blog.  Perhaps the joke was on us.  Watch this space.
 
As the Law Society Gazette put it: “given the quality of some of the satellite channels out there, Legal Costs TV would probably still not be the worst thing on the box”.
 
For those who didn’t visit the spoof website, that our excellent IT consultants Computer Boffins designed, it can still be viewed here: www.legal-costs-tv.co.uk.

Proportionality


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A further definition from The (Alternative) Legal Costs Dictionary:

 
Proportionality advs.  a theoretical legal concept whereby the court will not allow legal costs to be recovered that are disproportionate to the amount at stake.  An example of proportionality being applied by the courts has yet to be reported.
 

The Jackson Aftershock – Webcast


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The New Law Journal will host a live panel discussion on how Lord Justice Jackson’s proposed legal costs reforms could undermine the viability of personal injury claims and those who run them (or that’s their spin on it anyway).
Professor Dominic Regan, a leading authority on civil procedure and costs, will chair the free 30-minute newscast, which will be broadcast at 1pm on Friday 9 April at www.newlawjournal.co.uk.
 
Panel participants:
 
• Andrew Twambley, Senior Partner, Amelans
• Simon Butler, Barrister, Ely Place Chambers
 
The panel will offer expert analysis and debate on how and when Jackson LJ’s recommendations are likely to be implemented and the impact they are will have on costs, clients and practitioners.

51st Update to the CPR – 4


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More on the 51st Update to the Civil Procedure Rules. The changes came into force on 6 April 2010. The big changes relate to CPD 32.5 and the documents to be served with a bill where there is an additional liability.  These changes are to finally get the rules up to speed with the revocation of the Conditional Fee Agreement Regulations 2000 and Collective Conditional Fee Agreement Regulations 2000.

These merit being recited in full:

(b) where the conditional fee agreement was entered into before 1st November 2005, a statement of the reasons for the percentage increase given in accordance with regulation 3(1)(a) of the Conditional Fee Agreements Regulations 2000 or regulation 5(1)(c) of the Collective Conditional Fee Agreements Regulations 2000 [Both sets of regulations were revoked by the Conditional Fee Agreements (Revocation) Regulations 2005 but continue to have effect in relation to conditional fee agreements and collective conditional fee agreements entered into before 1st November 2005.];

(c) where the conditional fee agreement was entered into on or after 1st November 2005 (except in cases where the percentage increase is fixed by CPR Part 45, sections II to V), either a statement of the reasons for the percentage increase or a copy of the risk assessment prepared at the time that the conditional fee agreement was entered into;

(d) if the conditional fee agreement is not disclosed (and the Court of Appeal has indicated that it should be the usual practice for a conditional fee agreement, redacted where appropriate, to be disclosed for the purpose of costs proceedings in which a success fee is claimed), a statement setting out the following information contained in the conditional fee agreement so as to enable the paying party and the court to determine the level of risk undertaken by the solicitor-

(i) the definition of ‘win’ and, if applicable, ‘lose’;

(ii) details of the receiving party’s liability to pay costs if that party wins or loses; and

(iii) details of the receiving party’s liability to pay costs if that party fails to obtain a judgment more advantageous than a Part 36 offer.

There are no doubt a number of claimant representatives who are struggling to understand the section in brackets that says: “the Court of Appeal has indicated that it should be the usual practice for a conditional fee agreement, redacted where appropriate, to be disclosed for the purpose of costs proceedings in which a success fee is claimed”.  When did the Court of Appeal say that?  In Hollins v Russell [2003] EWCA Civ 718.

Given the reluctance of so many claimants to disclose their CFAs I can only assume that there are a significant number of claimant representatives out there who fall into one of three categories:

1. Those who have never heard of Hollins v Russell.

2. Those who have heard of it but haven’t bothered to read it.

3. Those who have heard of the case and have read it but didn’t understand all the long words.

Doesn’t Hollins v Russell say that a CFA should only be disclosed it there is a “genuine reason”?

No.  No.  No.

The case considered disclosure of two types of document.  The first type was the CFA itself.  That should normally be disclosed (see paragraph 80).  On the other hand, attendance notes only need to be disclosed if there is a “genuine issue as to whether there was compliance with regulation 4” (paragraph 81).  The distinction between the two is made clear at paragraph 220:

“So far as matters of procedure are concerned, we consider that it should become normal practice for a CFA to be disclosed for the purpose of costs proceedings in which a success fee is claimed. … Attendance notes and other correspondence should not ordinarily be disclosed, but the judge conducting the assessment may require the disclosure of material of this kind if a genuine issue is raised. A genuine issue is one in which there is a real chance that the CFA is unenforceable as a result of failure to satisfy the applicable conditions.”

For completeness, here is paragraph 82:

“Although the procedure envisages that the costs judge will put a party to her election as to the disclosure of the CFA, now that it is clear from our judgment in this case that this is to be the general practice, we hope that receiving parties will disclose the CFA without more ado. It would obviously lead to further costs and delay if receiving parties were to take an unreasonable view on this issue.”

So, the next time you are asked to disclose a copy of your CFA don’t refuse on the basis that the defendant has failed to raise a genuine issue.  You just make yourself look stupid.

The interesting thing to note about the new rules is that they sensibly state that a statement of reasons or risk assessment does not need to be served for CFAs entered into on or after 1 November 2005 where the success fee is fixed by CPR Part 45, sections II to V.  However, there is no corresponding concession for CFAs entered into pre-1 November 2005.  Even if the case is subject to fixed success fees, if the CFA/CCFA pre-dates 1 November 2005 (which with CCFAs will usually be the case) there is still a requirement to serve the relevant statement.  And will all know what the consequence is of failing to follow the rules properly.

2010 Guideline Hourly Rates


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The Master of the Rolls has now considered the recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Costs further, and also additional material put to him by the Committee.

On the basis of the evidence available to him, the Master of the Rolls has decided to accept the Committee’s recommendation that the 2009 Guideline Hourly Rates should be increased (in line with inflation) by 1.7% for 2010. The intention is that this should take effect from 1st April 2010.

The Advisory Committee commented in their recommendations that this involves no substantial change as "we  have  yet  to  complete  our  analyses  of  the  issues  raised  in  our  paper  The Derivation  of  New  Guideline  Hourly  Rates”.  This increase should therefore not be treated as evidence that they are rejecting Lord Justice Jackson’s call for a "robust" review of current rates (ie a reduction in current rates).  On the other hand, the decision to make any increase suggests they are not persuaded that it is obvious current rates are too high.

Legal Costs TV


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The success of the Legal Costs Blog has revealed the huge demand within the legal and insurance industries for accurate and reliable information on legal costs issues.  We are therefore delighted to announce the launch of Legal Costs TV.

Legal Costs TV will provide programs featuring news, commentary and in-depth analysis on legal costs law from the country’s leading defendant costs specialists Gibbs Wyatt Stone and a wide range of guests from within the legal costs world.  This channel will be an indispensable resource for costs judges, law costs draftsmen, legal costs negotiators, costs counsel, insurers and anyone else involved in legal costs issues. This will be a subscription only service available on satellite and cable.

However, we are delighted to be able to offer a free 3 month subscription to readers of the Legal Costs Blog.  This offer is only available TODAY and is on a strictly first come first served basis.  Visit www.legal-costs-tv.co.uk and when prompted for your 6 digit promotional code enter: 01.04.10

We are expecting very high demand for this promotional offer, so if you experience difficulty accessing the website please keep trying throughout the day.