The defendant costs specialists

Posts made in July, 2010

Costs Counsel v Costs Lawyer

By on Jul 21, 2010 | 7 comments

A recent edition of Costs Lawyer magazine contained an interview with the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen’s new chairman Iain Stark. In the interview he argues for costs lawyers to reclaim advocacy work on the basis that: “We created the mini costs industry for barristers. That was our own fault, predominantly because we didn’t have our own rights of audience. … We’ve got members who should be out there competing against barristers for these big cases and saying to their clients, ‘Don’t instruct a barrister. I can do this’.” [Ironically, underneath this interview was an advertisement from a set of chambers specialising in costs. I wonder if they paid more or less to have an advertisement placed in that position.] At the risk of being accused of being a contrarian (me?), I’m not sure I agree with this analysis of the growth of specialist costs counsel. I’ll start by making two things perfectly clear: 1. Many costs draftsmen are highly accomplished advocates. 2. A formal background or training in the law is not a prerequisite to becoming a skilled costs draftsman. Many will have learnt on the job and many will argue that this is the best form of training. The big costs cases of recent years have almost all found their way to at least the Court of Appeal (eg Callery v Gray [2001] EWCA Civ 1117, Hollins v Russell [2003] EWCA Civ 718, Claims Direct Test Cases [2003] EWCA Civ 136, Myatt v National Coal Board [2006] EWCA Civ 1017, etc). In fact, the rights of audience of costs lawyers extends only up to High Court Judge or Circuit Judge level. Costs lawyers still do not have the same rights of audience as barristers and have no automatic right to appear in the Court of Appeal in the “big cases”. In the past, and long before law costs draftsmen obtained automatic rights of audience via the costs lawyer route, costs draftsmen happily appeared in the courts on detailed assessment. This was during a period when legal costs law was relatively straightforward. Most disputes came down to little more than arguments about the number of letters written or time claimed. The “traditional” law costs draftsman was more than...

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Famous law costs draftsman

By on Jul 20, 2010 | 1 comment

Well known author Iain Banks used to be a law costs draftsman.  I never knew that. I can’t believe there aren’t more famous ex-law costs draftsmen out there?  Although I did hear that George Clooney used to work as a costs negotiator for a while. 

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Legal Costs Blog branded t-shirts

By on Jul 19, 2010 | 6 comments

Last week I attended a couple of functions hosted by chambers that specialise in legal costs. The first event was Hailsham Chambers Annual Costs Group Seminar. The second was 39 Essex Street’s Summer Garden Party. At the first event I met a perfectly charming young lady who said, and I’m obviously paraphrasing for comedy effect, “Oh my God! You’re Simon Gibbs who writes the Legal Costs Blog. I can’t believe I’m really talking to you”. At the second event I met another perfectly charming young lady who said, and this time I don’t need to paraphrase for comedy effect, “Oh my God! You’re Simon Gibbs who writes the Legal Costs Blog. I can’t believe I’m really talking to you. You’re a guru of the legal costs world”. Now, I don’t know what surprised me most: 1. That there appear to be as many as two people who regularly read the Legal Costs Blog; or 2. That I have somehow managed to acquire groupies. I guess there’s a surprisingly fine line between something being flattering and something being just a little bit creepy. Anyway, given the massive popularity of the Legal Costs Blog, the next logical step is to make available t-shirts so fans can show their support. We’ve put together the following selection. Unfortunately, we’re still working on the online ordering system so you’ll have to email to enquire about sizes and pricing. The t-shirts have our brand new Legal Costs Blog logo on the rear and one of the following slogans on the front: "I ♥ THE LEGAL COSTS BLOG" "I instructed specialist costs counsel to attend the SCCO and all I got was this lousy t-shirt" "Costs Lawyer v Accountant. That’s a slap fight I’d pay to see" "I spend 90% of my life drafting bills of costs and reading the Legal Costs Blog. The rest is just wasted" "Pay peanuts, get costs monkeys" "Those law costs draftsmen who think they know it all are an annoyance to those of us who do" "Two costs draftsmen in the same room is a detailed assessment. Three is a party" "I’m also authorised to administer oaths" "That reminds me about a really interesting story about a costs case I...

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£191m legal costs bill

By on Jul 16, 2010 | 1 comment

The Saville Enquiry into Bloody Sunday lasted 12 years, sat for 434 days and cost £191m. On the subject of whether it was worth it, Michael Mansfield QC, who represented some of the families of the victims, is reported to have said: "Absolutely, it’s been worth it".  Well, he would say that. The Northern Ireland Office records that he billed the taxpayer £743,421 for his work for the tribunal (and he was far from the highest billing). It was not reported as to whether he managed to say this with a straight face. Given the Enquiry was a token gesture as part of the Northern Ireland peace process, one does have to wonder whether it wouldn’t have been better to give £14m to each of the families of the 13 people shot dead or given the money to a local charity rather than waste it on lawyers’ fees.  However, I’m sure Michael was worth every penny. Joshua Rozenberg, who was covering legal affairs for the BBC at the time Lord Saville was appointed to the Enquiry, remembers that Lord Saville was seen as a "whizz-bang judge – not an old fuddy-duddy but somebody who could really get to grips with this rather challenging Inquiry".  Given the total failure of such an experienced judge to control the process or legal costs in this Enquiry it does make one wonder whether Lord Justice Jackson’s dream of a future where judges in the lower courts effectively case manage and costs manage claims is really...

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Defective costs drafting software?

By on Jul 15, 2010 | 3 comments

Costs Practice Direction 4.9 states: "Each item claimed in the bill of costs must be consecutively numbered".  It has contained this provision since the CPR was introduced. So why does one major costs drafting software programme not automatically do this but instead just numbers disbursements? The reason this is a particular bugbear of mine is that it makes it much easier to draft points of dispute if you can simply refer to an item number rather than need to use a description, especially if you are raising the same dispute in relation to items spread across the bill of...

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