The Association of Costs Lawyers held their Annual Conference last Friday/Saturday and it proved to be another excellent event.
However, I do sometimes wonder whether I was listening to the same talks as everyone else.
A long list of speakers commented on the rosy future for Costs Lawyers.
Topics covered included progress with the new bill of costs format and Mr Justice Ramsey hoping this would be introduced later this year.
This is implementation of Lord Justice Jackson’s proposal, in his Final Report, that:
“In my view, modern technology provides the solution. Time recording systems must capture relevant information as work proceeds. The bill format must be compatible with existing time recording systems, so that at any given point in a piece of litigation a bill of costs can be generated automatically [my emphasis]. Such a bill of costs must contain the necessary explanatory material, which is currently lacking from the bills prepared for detailed assessment. Crucially, the costs software must be capable of presenting the bill at different levels of generality. This will enable the solicitor to provide either (a) a user-friendly synopsis or (b) a detailed bill with all the information and explanation needed for a detailed assessment [my emphasis] or (c) an intermediate document somewhere between (a) and (b). The software must provide for work which is not chargeable or work which is written off to be allocated to a separate file.”
Although it is clear this cannot actually be totally automated, it is equally clear that this will reduce bill drafting time by 70-80%.
Dominic Regan reminded us that Lord Justice Jackson has recently mooted the possibility of fixed fees for cases with a value of up to £250,000.
Then there were the comments that we are moving away entirely from an hourly rate approach to legal fees and there was no future for hourly rates.
Of course, none of this may happen in our lifetimes. Just look at the Jackson Report that was kicked into the long grass and is quietly gathering dust somewhere long forgotten. But if even half does…