The new Guideline Hourly Rates for 2014 have now been announced.
The bad news for those hoping for an increase in the rates is that they remain the same as for 2010.
The good news for those hoping for an increase in the rates is that they remain the same as for 2010. The Report of the Costs Committee had recommended a range of amendments with the average rate going down, not up. The recommendation for Grade C Band One was a reduction from the current £161 per hour to £127. Aren’t you pleased they stayed the same?
Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls, rejected the main recommendations in the report on the basis of the “fundamental” shortcomings in the evidence upon which the recommendations were meant to be based. Not enough lawyers had bothered to respond to the survey. As Professor Dominic Regan succinctly summarised the position: “rubbish in, rubbish out. Dodgy data, nothing doing”
Lord Dyson concluded:
• there should not be an additional Grade A star
• that separate GHR bands specific to specialist fields of civil litigation should not be introduced
• that separate rates should not be introduced for detailed assessments of costs, but that there should be greater flexibility in detailed assessments than would ordinarily be shown in summary assessments
• there should be no new Grade E fee grade for paralegals (this would have led to reductions in rates for some Grade D fee earners in Band One from £118 to £75 – a 36% reduction)
The only “changes” Lord Dyson accepted were that:
• the criterion for Grade A fee earners should be amended so that it includes Fellows of CILEX with 8 years’ post-qualification experience
• that Costs Lawyers who are suitably qualified and subject to regulation be eligible for payment at GHR Grades C or B, depending on the complexity of the work
The changes are to come into force on 1 October 2014.
The actual wording of the recommendation in the report for Costs Lawyers was:
“The ACL provided evidence giving details on the qualification route, continuing professional development and regulatory framework for Costs Lawyers. The Committee agreed, and determined that the following approach should be adopted for those Costs Lawyers who are suitably qualified and subject to regulation under the Legal Services Act 2007 to undertake reserved legal activities:
(i) For budgeting and bill drafting, save in exceptional circumstances, Costs Lawyers should sit within the grades for Grade C and D fee earners;
(ii) For practising litigation and advocacy, save in exceptional circumstances, costs lawyers should sit within the grades for Grades C or B.”
The amendments for Fellows of CILEX with 8 years’ post-qualification experience and Costs Lawyers are largely changes of style rather than substance. The courts have always had the power to grant experienced Fellows rates equivalent to Grade A rates in appropriate cases and the Senior Courts Costs Office has always accepted that more complex bill drafting may justify Grade C rates and advocacy may justify Grade C or even Grade B rates. The only small extension is to now recognise (costs) litigation in the category now potentially justifying Grade C rates. The only real disputes will be the level of complexity that will be required to justify Grade C or B rates. I anticipate that there will be little real difference to what has gone before.
The Association of Costs Lawyer’s email alert on the news rather misleading stated:
“[Lord Dyson] has however accepted that Costs Lawyers should be recognized by being included in the banding at, predominantly, Grade C and B”.
Lord Dyson appears to have accepted the Report’s recommendation. He has not rejected the reports view that budgeting and bill drafting “should sit within the grades for Grade C and D fee earners”.
As with judgments, never just read the headnote.