Free legal consultation

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I note the back of the letterhead for QualitySolicitors in 2011 stated:

“QualitySolicitors are different. We promise: … First Consultation Free”.

By 2013 this had change to:

“QualitySolicitors are different. We promise: … First free advice”.

I have no idea what “First free advice” means but rather suspect their website reflects the intention:

“Free First Advice to help explore your options and find out if and how we can help.”

I can therefore confidently state that I won’t be seeing any claims for costs for the initial attendance from such firms.

Splitting bills of costs to deal with proportionality

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I’ve just received a bill of costs that states:

“This Bill has been drawn in multiple parts so as to differentiate between the work done pre and post 1st April 2013 on the basis that the former Lownds proportionality test applies to the pre 1st April 2013 work”.

Half correct. It also applies to the post-1st April 2013 work in this case because proceedings were issued pre-1st April 2013. I knew this would cause problems.

I won’t name and shame.

Costs Lawyers v Law Costs Draftsmen

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As an increasing number of readers of the Legal Costs Blog have observed, posts on virtually any subject quickly have the Comments section descend into a tat-for-tat debate about Costs Lawyers v Law Costs Draftsmen.

Although this was certainly not a debate I started, I have to concede I have added fuel to the fire with posts such as Costs Counsel v Costs Lawyer.

I’m now going to share, for what it’s worth, my views as to why this issue continues to generate endless bitter debate in the Comments section.

The Association of Costs Lawyers (by which I mean the majority views of elected ACL Councils) has sought to promote the interests and services of members of the Association. Although some non-members may not appreciate this (and I suspect a fair number of actual members), now that the Costs Lawyer Standards Board has primary responsibility for regulation of Costs Lawyers, the Association is little more than a trade union body whose role is limited to promoting the interests of its members, as opposed to being responsible for setting standards. It is therefore hardly surprising that singing the praises of its Costs Lawyer members is seen as a key role.

The approach to promoting the use of Costs Lawyers has been two-fold. Firstly, the Association has stressed the advantages of using Costs Lawyers in terms of members being qualified and regulated. However, even taking this “neutral” approach suggests by implication that those practising in costs who are not Costs Lawyers are not qualified (and therefore do not know what they are doing) and being unregulated are a bunch of cowboys.

Secondly, Chairmen of the Association have made direct attacks on non-Costs Lawyers:

Warning that non-Costs Lawyers will be uninsured if something goes wrong.
Seeking to persuade the courts not to allow non-Costs Lawyers rights of audience.

The Association has now pledged to use its funds to launch a campaign that will highlight to solicitors the risks of using non-Costs Lawyers.

Against the background of consistent and repeated attacks on the abilities and livelihoods of non-members it is hardly surprising that some have chosen to fight back and to do some with some venom. It would be bizarre if they did not. Unsurprisingly, this has tended to focus on the questionable qualification route to Costs Lawyer status taken by some and the “mixed” abilities of others.

There are also a number of practising Costs Lawyers, self-interest aside, who share the concerns as to the quality of some of those being held out by the Association as “specialists” in this field and the Association’s claims that they are all, by virtue of Costs Lawyer status alone, able to offer a genuinely skilled service in this complex area.

Thirdly, and I declare an interest here, there will be Costs Lawyers in practice with other non-Costs Lawyers who are equally or more skilled in costs than the vast majority of those who are Costs Lawyers but who have seen no need to go down the route of becoming Costs Lawyers. Those will question the appropriateness of the Association using members’ membership fees to attack their colleagues based on, often, wholly misleading claims as to the advantages of using Costs Lawyers.

On the flipside, many of those who are Costs Lawyers will naturally wish to defend the perceived value of their status (hard earned or not), particularly in light of the massive threats to job security in light of the Jackson reforms. And so attacks and count-attacks continue on the Comments section.

And this debate will not go away whilst the attacks on non-Costs Lawyers continue.

Nevertheless, there has to be a limit to which every blog post here gets hijacked by the issue. I am therefore going to designate this post to this topic for future use. Those wishing to continue the discussion can do so here indefinitely, if they so desire, but off-topic comments on this issue on other posts will be deleted. I very much doubt this is the last post on the issue I will write, and there will no doubt be other occasions where issues relating directly to the ACL/CLSB are raised on the Blog, and relevant comment will then be welcome on the subject on the appropriate post. But not otherwise.

Speling misstakes

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News article from The Telegraph:

“Lessons in spelling ‘have no place in 21st century schools’. Schools should stop providing lessons in spelling and grammar because children can correct linguistic errors on their mobile phones, according to a leading academic.”

In that case, I wish rather more readers of the Legal Costs Blog posted their comments using their mobile phones.

Time limit to open offers in assessment proceedings

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A reader of the Legal Costs Blog recently asked the question whether an open offer pursuant to PD 47 paragraph 8.3 can be made with a time limit for acceptance.

The wording of the PD simply says:

“The paying party must state in an open letter accompanying the points of dispute what sum, if any, that party offers to pay in settlement of the total costs claimed. The paying party may also make an offer under Part 36.”

I therefore see no reason why such an offer cannot have a time limit for acceptance imposed on it. Obviously, if the time limit is deemed to have been unreasonably short then the offer is unlikely to offer any protection (to the extent to which open offers do provide protection).

Further, as there are no special rules governing 8.3 offers (unlike Part 36 offers) it appears that ordinary contract law applies. An offer that is rejected, whether expressly or by conduct (serving Replies?), will no longer be open for acceptance. Equally, a counter-offer will also amount to rejection and mean the original offer is no longer open for acceptance.