Costs draftsmen hourly rates

The amount of the claim for costs in the case of Motto & Ors v Trafigura Ltd & Anor [2011] EWHC 90201 (Costs) (15 February 2011) – £104,707,772.72 – was truly eye-watering. This was, on any analysis, a complex group action involving 30,000 claimants. So, what did Master Hurst have to say about the appropriate hourly rates to allow for the law costs draftsmen who prepared the bill of costs in what must be one of the largest and most complex legal costs claims ever seen?

“The final matter raised by Mr Bacon was the rate payable to the costs draftsmen. He suggested this should be the grade D rate, and criticised the various mistakes which had been thrown up in the way in which the bill had been drawn. I have no details of the number of costs draftsmen involved, but am aware that Mr Ellis, who is a very experienced costs draftsman, has been in court throughout the hearing. I would expect Mr Ellis to be charged at the grade C rate, and for other more junior costs draftsmen to be charged at the grade D rate. This is a matter which may have to be argued further when the details of the costs draftsmen’s involvement are known.”

One of the most well respected costs draftsman in the country, dealing with one of the most complex costs matters, and the provisional view was that grade C rates were appropriate with everyone else at grade D.

What a contrast with the views expressed in Cook on Costs:

“in heavy bills involving amounts considerably in excess of the fast track … the use of a Grade A or B draftsman … would be reasonable and proportionate”

16 thoughts on “Costs draftsmen hourly rates

  1. I got Grade C for drating and attending a detailed assessment at Liverpool County Court on a £5,000.00 bill!

  2. Short answer: Barrister advocates

    Slightly longer answer: There are certain areas of bill drafting that can be shortened with knowledge and experience (i.e. dealing with apportionment), but largely the task is letter counting with a bit of vetting as to whether certain items should or shouldn’t make it into the bill.

    A large bill in itself ought not justify higher than D. There must be a feature that is distinct from size, because size is compensated for in time.

    However, there is something of a costs saving if the advocate drafted the bill. Such an advocate will be naturally familiar with a bill he has drafted and will have an underlying knowledge of the issues likely to be raised by the defendants. This will result in a saving in time in replies prep and prep for the hearing.

    Once you instruct a barrister or another advocate (presumably because there is a technical feature) to deal with the detailed assessment it is almost certain that the costs draftsman will get D.

  3. That’s liverpool though. That place has its own rules and every Defendant I know seriously considers whether to run things up there

  4. Ive rarely seen anything above D for drafting when opposing, but have had a large measure of success in attaining C for myself when putting Defendants to proof as to how many bills they have drafted – routinely, they havent (God bless their little cost monkey socks)!
    For assessment though, I never get below C, and often get B or A, particularly where Defendants throw in their standard dispute to challenge the retainer

  5. The vast majority of costs lawyers and draftsman do not argue technical points. As RP states (above) this means that they should command a grade D rate.

    This also comes back to the training issues for the ACL. A solicitor or barrister has had to pass a degree, a professional training course and then secure a training contract or pupilage. Many cost lawyers have never passed any formal qualification in their lives.

    The ACL can’t have it both ways; if they relax the training requirements then the qualification and status of costs lawyers will suffer.

  6. Anonymous- are you saying that bill drafting is difficult (‘bless their costs monkey socks’?) Most solicitors haven’t drafted a bill because it is considered routine work which can be done by a lower grade of fee earner.

  7. It still surprises me that costs draftsmen are held in such contempt. Whenever I have attended a hearing, I have always come away with at least a C rate. Solicitors feel that costs draftsmen are some inferior race – well, I have done more advocacy and dealt with more technical points of law than i dare suppose any of my instructing solicitors…..

  8. I’m a non ALCD draftsman who also happens to be a Grade A Solicitor.

    I charge Grade D for drafting & simple negotiation and Grade B for Points and Advocacy at 1st instance.

    I’ve only had the advocacy rate knocked down to C once in the last few years, and that was on a £2500 bill that was only needed because the Defendant refused to do anything at all (even take calls).

    I did not feel upset with that.

  9. I don’t think Cook is quite as authoritative as once was. I would not read too much into PTH’s initial ruling on the rate. The unique thing about the bill (if I can blow our collective trumpet just for a fleeting moment) was that it was prepared in ten weeks

  10. Wherever did the Defendant Solicitor get the idea that costs lawyers and draftsmen do not argue technical points. The majority of us have been arguing them for years (long before costs counsel came into existence) and continue to do so on a daily basis.

    So far as training is concerned I suggest that the Defendant Solicitor takes a look at the ACL website and in particular the ACL Modular Training Course prospectus. The training course is clearly a professional training course. If he also looks at the ACL website ‘Find a Member’ he will note that there are many Fellows or Costs Lawyers who have professional qualifications in addition to their ACL qualifications.

    Insofar as securing a training contract or pupillage is concerned whilst it is no longer a requirement of the ACL that students are predominantly employed in costs law and practice (to allow people not directly employed as costs draftsmen who need or wish to improve their knowledge of costs generally)it would not be possible to practice as a costs draftsman without practical experience and so the majority of students are employed in house or by professional law costs drafting firms.

    Such firms, including my own, take the issue of training very seriously and expend large sums of monies annually in training their staff and ensuring that they meet their CPD requirements.

  11. @Paul Williams

    A grade B for points and advocacy? Even where a grade C or below should have conducted the substantive claim?

    That would produce the perverse situation where the costs draftsman gets a higher rate than the lawyer who ran the claim!

  12. ah, Mr Defendant Solicitor, nice to hear from you again :)

    so drafting bills is simple, and its beneath solicitors?

    I have, like many draftsmen, spoken to more solicitors than i care to remember. I have also done so in many, many training seminars. What is very clear, is that solicitors do not draft bills, because they cannot. The thought scares the majority of them. They have neither knowledge nor training in costs.

    On the latter comment i have just made, it is a shocking siutation, that solicitors receive no training at all in their education or articles, in one of the most fundamentally important areas in which they practise.

    But on that, we come back to our Mr Defendants Solicitor, who thinks drawing bills is beneath him – is that where the problem lies?

  13. @ Bonfire

    The ACL training has not been completed by many costs lawyers and no costs draftsmen.

    Most non ACL draftsman simply set up as costs draftsman and did not jump through any hoops before practising. Many costs lawyers have never sat an exam or been assessed at any time in their professional lives. The only guarantee that anyone has of their expertise is that they sat at the back of a conference room and listened to a few lectures for one day.

    Costs Lawyers should accept that they are the junior end of the profession and that grade D rates are appropriate. In exceptional circumstances grade C may apply. I don’t mean that as an insult, just as a statement of fact.

  14. Mr Defendant Solicitor: you seem to miss the point, old chap. Being a Costs Draftsman requires a great deal of training and skill – notwithstanding the mickey mouse training course we all know as the ‘Assocation of Costs Lawyers’!

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