Costs Lawyer hourly rates

At the question and answer sessions at the Association of Costs Lawyers’ Annual Conference there were a number of complaints from the floor as to the tendency of judges to limit Costs Lawyers’ hourly rates to Grade D guideline rates. This was taken as being a great insult to experienced Costs Lawyers of many years’ experience. This issue was raised in the questions to the new Council and the suggestion raised that the ACL should seek to lobby for higher rates.

New Chairman Murray Heining acknowledged that this was something that the Council could look into but suggested caution on the basis that the Association may find itself shooting itself in the foot. Murray is no fool. This chimed in with a chat I had at the conference with another experienced Costs Lawyer. One of his solicitor clients had previously been unhappy with their hourly rates being routinely reduced by the local court and decided to undertake an expense of time calculation in the hope that armed with this information they would be able to persuade the court to allow them higher rates. They undertook the calculation only to discover the rates they were already recovering were probably on the generous side. They sensibly decided to let sleeping dogs lie.

Murray is aware that many Costs Lawyers are “kitchen table” draftsmen with minimal overheads. Indeed, I rather suspect some have virtually non-existent overheads.

I have seen a number of comments on this Blog and on the ACL Forum complaining about the fact the practice directions to CPR 47 are not on the Ministry of Justice website and asking where a copy can be found. It is indeed bizarre that this is missing from the website but the short answer is that a copy can be found in White Book Civil Procedure 2013 Special Supplement that was issued free with the White Book 2013 on publication and appears again in the free updating White Book Civil Procedure 2013 Cumulative Special Supplement (and presumably Green Book equivalent). Of course, the problem for many law costs draftsmen and Costs Lawyers is that they would consider it an unnecessary and wildly extravagant step to purchase a White Book/Green Book and rely on free material on the interweb. These are the same people who turn up to detailed assessment hearings without a copy of the CPR and hope that annoying issues relating to the wording of the rules aren’t raised.

I rather suspect that some of those who complain most about the terrible injustice of having their rates reduced to Grade D are those with overheads a fraction of the “typical” Grade D fee earner.

67 thoughts on “Costs Lawyer hourly rates

  1. “… explain therefore why the ACL is actively trying to promote the notion, that bill drafting activities become restricted business, so that ONLY Cost Lawyers can draw bills?”

    According to the CLSB’s minutes, they are doing this for the purpose of boosting membership. I assume that they feel that this is required as the other benefits provided are not attractive enough.

    However, what they apparently do not appreciate is that the aim of the Legal Services Board is to open up markets not restrict them. That would be the logical reason to grant the creation of a CL, to open up markets to Joe Public for costs services and not to solicitors who can handle it themselves but have enough on their plate. Therefore, the CL is actually the solicitor’s competitor and they should be campaigning and advertising for Joe Public to use their services rather than solicitors as it ought to be cheaper.

    An external CD remains, the solicitor’s temporary employee and regulated by their SLA to cover issues such as insurance and should be looking at reducing rates to remain competitive.

    Incidentally, does anyone know of a case where a CD/CL has been sued by their instructing solicitor and had to make use of their professional indemnity insurance? I would honestly like to know as in my 20 years, I have never known of (or know anybody who knows of) such a case. However, I‘m sure there must be such cases in light of the noise made about this insurance and would appreciate if someone could provide some loose details of any such matters they know of.


  2. I agree with ”the office cat”

    bailey v ibc vehicles, crane v canon leisure centre

    sol are properly legally qualified and regulated, and have overall control and accountability for the bill of costs.

    I think it is dangerous for lay people to instruct ”costs lawyers” because the term itself is so broad.

    barristers mainly deal with costs issues before conclusion of cases i.e wasted costs applications and submissions for inter partes costs

    Not to mention other issues that inevitably come with these types of clients such as professional negligence and other potential causes of action.

    The system was best left as it was as solicitors were best placed to advise the client and instruct costs experts as they saw fit i.e. costs draftsman or costs counsel

  3. So it continues, ACL chairman Murray Heining said: “It is inevitable that solicitor/own client disputes will re-emerge and solicitors need to get used once more to ensuring that they have their records in order to counter any challenge they may receive.

    “Costs lawyers are a resilient group of people who have proven the value they give their clients. Now that the ‘shock’ of the Jackson reforms has passed, many can see a positive future where they continue to make an important contribution of the working of the justice system.

    “The need for expert advice is greater than ever as solicitors get to grips with the Jackson reforms, and so it continues to mystify me that they would put recovery of their costs in the hands of unqualified and unregulated people who do not know the law and only end up damaging their case and costing everyone more.”

  4. Perhaps Murray doesnt read this blog (which in itself seriously undermines his credibility) or he is on a mission to permanently damage reputations of non-ACL costs draftsmen.

    Either way the argument is fundamentally flawed because, as stated before

    *there is not enough costs lawyers (who actually have the knowledge or inclination) to draw all the bills of costs that need to be drawn in england and wales
    **as per crane v canon leisure centre it is solicitors work, not costs lawyers’ work
    ***he (or the ACL) has offered no evidence and noone can find any cases where a costs lawyer/draftsman has been sued

  5. Im losing respect for the ACL. Here is a quote from Murray Heining in today’s litigation futures (where it seems most of the lies and spin are printed by their pr gurus)

    “The need for expert advice is greater than ever as solicitors get to grips with the Jackson reforms, and so it continues to mystify me that they would put recovery of their costs in the hands of unqualified and unregulated people who do not know the law and only end up damaging their case and costing everyone more.”

    Can someone clarify what costs lawyers know about the law that is superior to a costs draftsman? Having passed the course I have to say this is utter nonsense!

    Get a grip ACL!

  6. Going forward with the new bill format if it is an extension of the Precedent H, it will become what we used to call a pleading. Hence reserved activity via the back door!

    Who knows.

    Personally – recognition of the profession we work in is far more important than arguing as to what rate is recoverable ro reasonable. Leave it to the advocate at the hearing – if there is a hearing in the future!

    For those old enough – an expense of time calculation may well prove counter productive.

    Get Costs Lawyer within CPR opposed to Fellow and job done.

  7. @ Iain Stark. So precluding solicitors clerks and assistants, from doing the very activity, the law says they are able to do? And what of drawing Points of Dispute? If the present bill isn’t a pleading already, pray why does it need a statement of truth? Does this mean it can only be drawn by the solicitor so signing?

    Incidentally, open Q to all, where does it say in the new PD that PODs have to be signed any more……..

    I happen to agree with Iain, recognition for the profession is key, BUT, its a profession which isn’t just restricted to CL’s. What the ACL, and its new voice, are doing, is quite wrong, and will i’m very sure, backfire.

  8. The bill of costs has always been a pleading.

    There is not a cat in hells chance of the ACL making bill drafting a reserved activity.

    I can see the benefit of the PR drive in terms of marketing, but it is very misleading to make sweeping statements to the effect that a costs lawyer is better than a costs draftsman without any evidence.

    Tantamount to slander? I would not be qualified to answer that with my LLM, LLB, solicitors training and decades of experience in the law. I am merely a costs draftsman, so I would have to bow to the knowledge of ”qualified” costs lawyers for an answer to this!

  9. Whilst not wishing to argue with “ACL WHO ARE THEY”

    Can you give me authority confirming that the Bill of Costs has always been a pleading. This will assist in an article I am writing and obviously I can give you credit as my source.

    Further who are you!

  10. The definition of a pleading is ”A formal statement of the cause of an action or defense”.

    When serving a bill and notice of commencement you are commencing the claim for costs, which is in itself an extension of the main proceedings.

    If it looks like a pleading, has the same effect of a pleading and will be potentially relied upon in a court of law what makes it not a pleading?

  11. In any event I cannot see how making the bill a formal pleading (if it isnt already) will mean only costs lawyers can draft them.

    Pleadings in the main proceedings can be prepared by unqualified staff, as long as they are checked by the main fee earner and signed in the name of that particular firm of solicitors.

  12. I also cannot see that a bill becoming a pleading (if not already) alters anything to do with appointing a CD to draft it. However, I am very curious to hear from anyone who supports Iain Stark’s position.

    With regard to rates, the reality of it is that they are too high, which is the reason why it appears that individuals have now grown delusions of grandeur.

    In view of the training and people they have to deal with, do we really think that we deserve to be paid more than a legal aid solicitor?

  13. Yes but it is solicitors work – which thereby attracts a higher rate.

    And I do not agree with the argument that costs lawyers only know a particular niche area, and solicitors can justify a higher rate as they can deal with broader issues.

    I for one regularly have to argue points in relation to other areas of CPR for example recently I had to argue the finer points of the pre action protocol and service provisions within CPR 6.

    Also unqualified litigation executives quite rightly attract rates on a par with solicitors, and they are not in any way qualified to deal with any other type of law including the one they are practicing in.

  14. It is solicitor’s work but if it’s not conducted out of a solicitor’s practice then it’s not with solicitor’s overheads and consequently their guidance rates really should not apply.

    Whether it’s arguing if pre-action work can be claimed within the main action; the actual date of service; validity of a Part 36 offer or the interpretation of an insurer’s contract clause with the appointed solicitor, I think it all is still pale in comparison with the work done by a solicitor but more relevantly with the burden of their overheads as well as their regulatory requirements.

    With regard to litigation executives charging at solicitor’s rates, this would be reasonable and indeed normal if they were employed by a solicitor’s firm. However, I know of self-employed agents charging fixed fees as low as £60 per hearing (include preparation / travelling)

    The ACL is a professional body who are currently looking for publicity and purporting to be of high moral standing but yet appear wilfully ignoring this issue for what seems to be for the benefit of some of their member’s bloated profits.

    I wonder if they would welcome the Law Society Gazette or similar reporting on this apparent hypocrisy. It could be good a column filler on these slow summer news days.

    By the way, please could somebody mention to the ACL that their corny attack ads dressed up as news articles are just demeaning us all. . . . Thanks.

  15. I take your point office cat, but i think there is an argument that costs draftsmen are in the solicitors temporary employ, and therefore it assumed you have the same overheads as the solicitor (because your rate has been agreed with them).

    There is also an argument which is regularly successful, about using a barrister eg. it works out cheaper to do this as the solicitor would have taken the same, or more time, at a higher hourly rate.

  16. By the way, i like your view on the current spin and lies being spouted by the Association of Inflated Egos as ”corny attack ads”!

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>