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.