Replies to Points of Dispute – Goodbye

One of the superficially innocuous forthcoming changes to the Costs Practice Direction relates to the contents of Replies. Replies are currently, of course, optional and one therefore might have expected these only to be drafted in cases, and in relation to specific disputes, where it might usefully narrow the issues or where positive concessions are being offered. Not in this writer’s experience.

CPD 39 will now read:

“39.1 A reply served by the receiving party under rule 47.13 must be limited to points of principle and concessions only. It must not contain general denials, specific denials or standard form responses.

39.2 Whenever practicable, the reply must be set out in the form of Precedent G.”

Sharp intake of breath from a large number of law costs draftsmen and costs lawyers. This particular gravy train is coming to a crashing halt.

The example of a point of principle given in the new Precedent G is: “The claimant was at the time a child/protected person/insolvent and did not have the capacity to authorise the solicitors to bring these proceedings.”

A challenge to whether a matter required a Grade A fee earner or whether it was reasonable to instruct non-local solicitors is not a point of principle. No reply needed or allowed (note the use of the word “must” in CPD 39.1). A challenge to the number of hours spent in attendances on the claimant is not a point of principle. A challenge to a conference with counsel is not a point of principle. A challenge to the level of success fee is not, under ordinary circumstances, a point of principle (not that we’ll have those shortly). With the changes (clarification) of how points of dispute should look, we’ll no longer have item-by-item challenges to document schedules. Even if we did, this is not a point of principle and no reply allowed.

There are no doubt plenty of law costs draftsmen and costs lawyers who make almost as much money drafting prolix replies as they do from anything else they do. I currently have a case where I drafted points of dispute running to 8 pages. In response I received replies running to 34 pages which resembled a skeleton argument, but did nothing to narrow the issues. Those days are about to end.

In fact, there is now no justification to continue the current abuse of the system until the rule change formally comes into force. Next time, as a receiving party, you receive points of dispute, pause and reflect. Unless there is a point of principle or you are making a concession, no need for replies. That is why they are optional.

In future, most points of dispute will not justify replies. Where replies are justified they are likely to be limited to a few narrow points and it will be rare for more than 30 minutes to be required on the task.

I look forward to making my first application to have replies struck for failing to comply with CPD 39.1.

16 thoughts on “Replies to Points of Dispute – Goodbye

  1. Having worked on both sides of the fence I must say that it is not only the Receiving party who abuse this process. The paying party quite often produce pro-forma disputes that in some instances do not even relate to the case!!! This serves only to increase costs and make negotiation much more difficult. I of course appreciate that in some instances the process has been abused and some do see it as a money making exercise however if carried out properly by both sides I find that they most certainly do narrow the issues and often lead to settlement without the need for detailed assessment. I think this is often the problem throughout the costs process. Defendants (not all I might add) make unrealistic offers and fail to consider their file of papers properly and the Receving party failing concede time where it is clear the same is excessive. Although I appreciate the concerns raised in the article I believe this has a Defendant bias slant.

  2. ah, the harbinger of doom again, Simon :)

    I would say it is most certainly a point of principle, the need for a conference; or using a Grade A; or the instruction of local solicitors

    What the revised PD refers to, in my view, is the superfluous challenges by Defendants to the time element of claims, where, according to all Defendants (the vast majority of whom have never conducted an actual claim in their lives, and have no actual yardstick to go by save the desire to get a %age reduction for their client) every time is excessive.

    Perhaps if Defendants for once had a dose of reality in their objections…………

  3. Good luck in the future trying to persuade a costs judge in the SCCO that “the need for a conference; or using a Grade A; or the instruction of local solicitors” are points of principle. If the new rules were intended to be limited to disputes concerning document time that is what the new rules would have said.

    Points of principle are issues such as challenges to retainers, arguments over apportionment of common time, reductions due to alleged exaggeration of damages, etc.

  4. “A challenge to whether a matter required a Grade A fee earner or whether it was reasonable to instruct non-local solicitors is not a point of principle.”


  5. Because it is a general dispute (see the new Precedent G).

    This does not stop the receiving party making appropriate oral submissions if the matter reaches a hearing.

  6. More importantly there are going to be some fat skellies.

    Judge’s for most part dont have time to read file and so people will want to hammer their points home

    It has already been said that this reform cannot work with provisional assessment so clearly there rules will have to be “bent”

  7. What about the scenario where the Points request further information to explain an element of costs, etc.? If the information is not to be provided in the replies, does the PP have to wait until the DA hearing or does the C take a pragmatic approach and provide the information in open correspondence? Brief Points and briefer Replies are all very well when a bill has been well drafted in the first place – but well drafted bills are few and far between.

  8. Call them what you will.

    Yes its a contradiction in terms but most skellie are not the “bare bones” as intended.

    since when has what was intended bared resemblence to what happens on the coal face

    I say this after having just worked on a file with a 50+ page “Skellie” from a senior QC.

  9. Hello,

    I am in the process of writing Points of Dispute in response to a Bill Of Costs. For the record I am the Claimant but because I submitted the claim form in an incorrect manner, I had to amend everything, therefore I have been ordered to pay £X for the Defendant costs. The Defendant has been ordered to pay £X to me, as their application was successful which was taken into consideration when I offered them £X (which was 75% of their costs).

    I have been advised to submit my points of dispute on Monday as a backup plan in case they go back on their word.

    I am using the following page as a template:

    Please could someone inform me whether, on my points of dispute, I have to reduce the time and rates one by one (in contrast to the info stated on their bill of costs) or can I just leave out my calculations and explain why I think it is excessive, then state my offer of £3500 at the bottom? Will I be penalised for this?

    Please help.

    Thank you very much in advance!

  10. There is no need to include calculations. Just state which items within the Bill you object to and, briefly, why. Where appropriate you should suggest a figure. This does not need to be an amount in £s. It might be, for example, offering 20 letter in place of the 30 claimed. You should not normally give your total offer within the Points of Dispute. This should be given within a Part 47.19 offer.



  11. Dear Simon Gibbs,

    Thank you very much for your incredibly helpful advice! It is very much appreciated!

    Kindest regards,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>