The defendant costs specialists

Posts made in November, 2010

Focus on quality

By on Nov 29, 2010 | 0 comments

The Chair of the LSB’s consumer panel has called for an increased focus on quality in the provision in legal services. Dianne Hayter said that a lack of checking of the quality of work, and “light touch” requirements for lawyers to show continuing competence, suggested that regulators as well as consumers were making “heroic assumptions” about quality. “Regulatory activity focuses on entry requirements and disciplinary processes. Unless an issue arises, there are few proactive checks to ensure that professionals remain competent. Quality checking mechanisms, such as peer review and chambers’ monitoring, focus on process rather than the substance of the advice”. It will be interesting to see how the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen grapples with these issues having already stumbled at the “entry requirements” part of the regulatory process....

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No to City rates

By on Nov 26, 2010 | 0 comments

A number of readers of the Legal Costs Blog receive this via email or feeds.  They will therefore usually miss out on some of the interesting comments that are added by those who read online. On a previous post, on the subject of whether personal injury work should attract “City rates”, Jacques Hughes provided an answer so definitive that I must share this with all readers: “The argument is just silly. PI and commercial work inhabit fundamentally different markets, and PI lawyers delude themselves if they think otherwise. Compare a topnotch PI practice like Irwin Mitchell to a real City firm and ask: does the PI firm have a 24 hr secretarial service? Does it have a 24/7/365 reprographics department capable of handling, say, 20 million pages a year? Do staff have to be paid to work all hours in order to liaise with NYC and Hong Kong? Does it have a library of 10,000 volumes plus, with subscriptions to all major Commonwealth and American law reports and journals? Does the PI firm have to run a recruitment drive targeted at the best candidates at Oxbridge and equivalents in the US & Australia, paying trainees 50K plus packages? Do middling assistants expect salaries in the 150K + bracket? Are international travel and worldwide offices a major PI overhead? The answer to all of these question is consistent, obvious, and negative. City rates for PI work is a nothing more than a mirthless...

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The disappearing middle

By on Nov 22, 2010 | 0 comments

A recent article in The Economist (see link) discussed the phenomenon that in rich countries since the 1990s employment in middle-income jobs has begun to decline as a share of the total whilst the share of both low and high-skilled jobs has risen. The article speculates that the reason for this change is the development in information technology. “Computers do not directly compete with the abstract, analytical tasks that many high-skilled workers do, but aid their productivity by speeding up the more routine bits of their jobs. But they do directly affect the need for people like assembly-line workers or those doing certain clerical tasks, whose jobs can be reduced to a set of instructions which a machine can easily follow (and which can consequently be mechanised). At the other end of the employment spectrum … low-skilled jobs may not require much education but they are very hard to mechanise.” Secretaries, bank tellers and payroll clerk numbers decline as a result. Demand for the most highly educated has risen, as has (generally) the demand for low-skilled workers. The article does not explain the latter but this is presumably because a growing wealthy professional class will always require someone to make their caffe lattes and do the cleaning. This ties in with news on Legal Futures (see link) that the number of solicitors on the roll has risen to 150,000. This represents nearly a 50% increase in the past decade. Not long ago it was announced that the number of paralegals in England has increased from 24,509 in 2001 to 51,250 – a rise of 109% (see link). What does the growth in computerisation mean for the legal profession? On the one hand it might suggest that there will be a relentless increase in the number of skilled lawyers as society continues to polarise between high skilled and low skilled jobs. I suspect the truth will be something rather different. Much legal work already consists of little more than “cut and paste” tasks. Many RTA firms are already sausage factories with large numbers of unqualified or semi-qualified staff working under the supervision of a handful of qualified solicitors. The new “portal” led RTA claims process already begins to suggest future...

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Costs Management in Civil Litigation Conference

By on Nov 19, 2010 | 1 comment

On 23rd November 2010 Thirty Nine Essex Street Chambers, Ellis Grant and Feesability are hosting a conference on Costs Management in Civil Litigation (see download). Speakers include Lord Justice Jackson. Unlike some commentators, I’m not convinced that costs management is going to be the saviour of the legal costs profession. However, it is likely to be a nice little money earner for a handful of individuals (in the same way costs capping orders were for a brief period). This also ties in with Professor Dominic Regan delivering his, sadly confidential, report on the Birmingham Costs Management pilot to Sir Rupert earlier this week. The future is almost upon...

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Absent minded solicitors

By on Nov 18, 2010 | 0 comments

The US tax system gives various benefits to those with dependants. The more dependants, the lower the final tax bill will be. Previously, tax payers had to do no more than give the names of their dependants in their tax return to benefit. In 1987 a change was made so that tax payers had to give the Social Security number of each dependent being declared. Overnight seven million children disappeared (see page 21 of Freakonomics). Japan has long been hailed for the longevity of its citizens, with official figures showing 40,000 centenarians. Earlier this year officials went to congratulate Tokyo’s oldest man on his 111th birthday. They found his mummified body lying in his bed. He had been dead for 30 years. Subsequent enquiries revealed that Tokyo’s oldest women had been missing for decades (see link). It appears that relatives in Japan have been too busy continuing to collect pensions on behalf of their elderly relatives to remember to advise the authorities of their deaths. These two examples reveal the propensity of humans to be less than honest when they think nobody is looking. Now, claimant solicitors, being officers of the court, would never be deliberately dishonest. However, they do have a tendency to do the costs equivalent of inadvertently miscounting the number of children they have or forget that their grandmother is no longer alive and her mummified body is now lying in the spare bedroom. I therefore have a modest proposal. There are currently a number of legal costs related pilots being conducted. Let’s introduce a further one in a handful of courts whereby whenever a bill of costs is served copies of all retainer documents and all timesheets are to be served with it. I wonder if this will produce a sudden miraculous drop in the amounts being...

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