New bill of costs format


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I previously commented (see post) on the possibility of a new bill of costs format emerging as a result of the Lord Justice Jackson’s Civil Litigation Costs Review.

The Senior Courts Costs Office Costs Practitioners Group recent minutes (see link) provided an update:

Proposals for a new format for bills of costs
As a result of the seminar, a working party comprising Master Simons, District Judge Besford and Mr Harman had been set up to look into the format of bills of costs and how improvements could be made. They had consulted with the Costs Judges, the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen and the Regional Costs Judges, who had all provided feedback. The conclusion they had reached, which was to be their recommendation, was that the items claimed as part of the Documents item in a bill of costs should be subdivided according to subject matter, instead of being listed in chronological order. For example, there should be separate subheadings to show the time spent on preparing pleadings, witness statements, preparations for trial etc. This had been put to the firms who prepared software for bills of costs, who saw no problems with this format. The meeting welcomed this proposal as an improvement on what we presently have. However, Mr O’Riordan spoke up on behalf of those who thought that this improvement should go further: the “block time” method could be applied to the whole bill, thus doing away with the need to count individual letters, emails and telephone calls. Where most time was now recorded by solicitors on computerised time sheets, he thought it an anachronism that individual letters, which were sometimes little more than a couple of lines, should be remunerated as a 6 minute unit, when the time sheet would record the actual time spent in any event. Master Simons said that it was the intention of the working party to recommend that email communications were dealt with in this way, but that for routine letters, he felt that showing the total amount of correspondence with a party (i.e. by letter count) was still a useful way of determining whether the amount of work done with that party was reasonable and proportionate or not.”

This recommendation seems likely to be accepted by Jackson LJ.  And the waiting is almost over…

Responses to Jackson Costs Review


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It is obvious how much work has been put in by Lord Justice Jackson and his team in relation to his preliminary report on his Review of Civil Litigation Costs and his forthcoming final report (due for publication on 14 January 2010). However, others have also put a lot of time and effort into this process.  The preliminary report generated a large number of responses from interested parties who produced detailed submissions in the hope influencing the final report. 

To recognise that work I have put together links to a number of these responses.  These can be viewed here: Jackson Costs Review.  The list is not complete and was based on a trawl of the internet and some other investigations (but does include the response from Gibbs Wyatt Stone).  I will be happy to add others if you send me a link or a copy of the document.

Jackson webinar


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As the excitement about the publication of Lord Justice Jackson’s final report on his Review of Civil Litigation Costs builds to an uncontrollable frenzy, an event to place in your diary is a live webinar panel discussion on the key proposals in the report on the same day as publication (14 January 2010) over at the New Law Journal website. 

A worrying legal costs development


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The decision in Crane v Canons Leisure [2007] EWCA Civ 1352 means that solicitors can outsource work but then charge for this work as though they had done it themselves (with a higher hourly rate than that paid to the agent) and claim a success fee on top.  Therefore, in the case of detailed assessments, solicitors can outsource the bill drafting and advocacy at a rate of, for example, £100 but then claim a rate of, for example, £130 plus a success fee of up to 100%.

Lord Justice Jackson’s preliminary report on his Review of Civil Litigation Costs quoted the view of FOIL that this decision was “iniquitous and further increasing costs”.  Jackson LJ viewed the decision as an example of the rules creating “windfalls for claimant lawyers” and raised the possibility of reversing this decision through primary legislation.

It is therefore unfortunate that news emerges of a change to the way barristers’ fees can be treated.  According to a recent report in the Law Gazette, solicitors will for the first time be able to profit from instructing barristers following rule changes agreed last month by the Bar Standards Board.  It will enable a relationship with solicitors that will allow the solicitor’s firm to treat the barrister’s fee as a cost that they can mark up when billing the client to generate a profit (and therefore, equally, an unsuccessful defendant).  Previously a barrister’s fee was treated as a disbursement.

Traditionally, outsourcing certain work to barristers has been one of the few factors that works to limit the level of legal costs incurred.  It is not uncommon to see a barrister in a claim charging an hourly rate of, say, £150 while the instructing solicitor is charging £250 per hour plus a 100% success fee (ie £500 per hour).  If it becomes common practice for counsels’ fees to have a mark-up added this will be a worrying legal costs development.  Just as others are looking to reduce the disproportionate level of legal costs incurred in litigation, so the Bar has taken a step in the other direction.  This looks likely to lead to the next round of the costs war.

Jackson Report sent to Master of the Rolls


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For those of you with nothing better to do on New Year’s Eve than read the Legal Costs Blog (this post was written in advance and published automatically) spare a thought for the Master of the Rolls who was due to receive an advance copy of Lord Justice Jackson’s final report on his Review of Civil Litigation Costs by today (due to be published on 14 January 2010).  If it’s anything like his Preliminary Report the Master of the Rolls will have some serious reading to do. 

Solicitors’ bills and VAT


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Those involved in the world of legal costs will be dreading VAT reverting to 17.5% in 2010 and the difficulties this will cause in relation to bill drafting.

On the subject of VAT, another video from Colin Berry, this time about solicitors’ bills and VAT:

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I’m no expert on VAT regulations but I suspect the answer may lie in the fact that the bill is headed “Interim Account”.

I again hasten to add that the views expressed by Mr Berry are his own and not those of the Legal Costs Blog or anyone associated with it.

Raising Legal Fees


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I wouldn’t usually post something giving tips on how lawyers can increase the legal costs they can recover but I thought I would make an exception in this case.

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Is it just me or was this all blindingly obvious?

I did like the music at the beginning and end though.

The legal costs song


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Surprisingly, legal costs is not a subject that many of the world’s great songwriters have chosen to deal with.  You can therefore imagine how exited I was to come across the following:

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Legal costs and the "corruption" of the current system


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Some of you may have already come across Colin Berry. His wife suffered serious injuries following two washing machines falling onto her from a height of 30 feet. (To have one washing machine fall on you may be regarded as a misfortune; to have two looks … etc.)

Mr Berry wrote on one website: “My main aim is to publish this case throughout from beginning to end, just to leave something to the society of the future to ponder on”. If future society ever stumbles on his various blogs and videos it will indeed have much to ponder.

This video gives his views on solicitors who overcharge, amongst other things. The section on legal costs starts (so far as there is any start or finish) about 11 minutes into the video.

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I hasten to add that the views expressed by Mr Berry are his own and not those of the Legal Costs Blog or anyone associated with it.