The defendant costs specialists

Posts made in January, 2011

Esther Rantzen speaks out against Jackson

By on Jan 19, 2011 | 0 comments

Over the last day or two I’ve been highlighting some of the more novel arguments put forward in opposition to Jackson LJ’s costs proposals. Inevitably, most arguments, both pro and anti Jackson, are generated by the self-interest of those making the arguments. It is therefore a welcome relief that an independent voice has stepped forward to present some impartial arguments against Jackson. Esther Rantzen, the consumer champion, failed parliamentary candidate and ex-presenter of that TV programme with the dog that could say “sausages”, has come out in support of the Access to Justice Action Group which opposes the Jackson proposals. Ms Rantzen was reported as saying: “Everyone should have access to justice. The Jackson proposals, if implemented, will ruin the lives of some of the most vulnerable in society. I’m not just saying this because of all the money I make from fronting TV advertisements for Accident Advice Helpline. Have you any idea how difficult it is with all the ageism in TV these days for a woman of my age to get television work? The public has grown tired of programmes based on amusingly shaped vegetables. Ambulance chasing Helping innocent people whose lives have been wrecked by the negligence of others has given my life meaning again. That’s Life!”, she quipped. “Now, that horrid man Rupert is trying to take it all away from me. It’s so unfair. Have I mentioned all the charity work I do for children?” she said, breaking down into tears. OK. To be honest, I couldn’t find a single quote from Esther Rantzen on the internet on the subject and so I have had to make most of this up. Still, I’m sure it catches the general spirit of what she would have wanted to say. If it’s any consolation to Esther, her TV advertisement is still being talked...

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Why Jackson must be stopped

By on Jan 18, 2011 | 4 comments

Following on from yesterday’s post on some of the more novel arguments being put forward in opposition to the Jackson costs proposals, is one I stumbled across on a law costs draftsmen’s website: “It appears that the Senior Judges of this country are trying to damage the legal industry which for the past number of years have happily been their paymasters. Let us not forget that Solicitors and Claims Management companies breathe life into the Court Service. Without them being the champions for the rights of Claimants, a vast number of Judges would be unemployed. The old saying of biting the hand that feeds might one day be accepted but by then, it might be too late.” Yesterday’s argument was concerned with the implication that the role of the claims industry is to help create jobs for lawyers, claims handlers, etc. This refocuses that argument to suggest that the purpose of the legal system is to keep judges in work; and judges would be well advised to keep this in mind. I’m going to use this line the next time I bring a CFA challenge in the Senior Courts Costs Office. Unless costs judges allow a reasonable proportion of such challenges to succeed they may find themselves out of a job. I’ll let you know how I get...

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The case against the Jackson proposals

By on Jan 17, 2011 | 0 comments

Take any controversial subject: the death penalty, abortion, legalising drugs, immigration, Marmite. Most people will have a view, one way or the other, on these topics. When presented with new arguments or studies supporting or opposing these pre-held beliefs, do we objectively weigh the strengths or weaknesses of them? Of course not. Those that support our own views are considered “more convincing” or “better conducted”. Those that oppose our own views are considered “weak”, “ill-conceived” or have “obvious flaws”. Arguments or studies in support of our beliefs simply strengthen our convictions. Those that are against our beliefs are simply ignored. (See chapter 11 of Irrationality.) Lord Justice Jackson consulted extensively when writing his Review of Civil Litigation Costs. I don’t know what preconceptions he secretly brought to the process, but the response from the legal and insurance industries was entirely predictable. Defendants and insurers (with the exception of ATE insurers) are broadly behind the proposals and claimant representatives (solicitors, trade unions, claimant management firms, etc) are opposed. What a surprise. We are now into a further period of consultation on implementation. Any guess as to what each side is going to say? I really can’t believe that the Ministry of Justice is going to take any notice of responses unless some hugely convincing statistical evidence is produced. There are some interesting alternatives/amendments contained within the consultation and it is obvious the MoJ has been advised by some individuals with a real understanding of the issues. However, I just can’t see that the consultation will sway the MoJ one way or the other. The arguments that will be presented in response to the consultation will not come from objective analysis of the merits but will be inspired by existing beliefs generated by self-interest. As Lord Justice Jackson was reported as saying by Litigation Funding: “the competing arguments, which I heard over the past ten months, are the same as the competing arguments which I heard last year” And they are going to be trotted out again by the usual suspects. The usual arguments have been too well rehearsed to be worth commenting on again, but over the next day or two I will mention some of the more novel ones....

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Costs Lawyer advocacy – continued

By on Jan 14, 2011 | 2 comments

I recently received a copy of an anonymous letter addressed to the Legal Services Board. A copy of the letter had also been sent to the Bar Council, Law Society and ILEX. The letter had apparently been written by a costs lawyer. The gist of the letter can be gathered from this sentence: “My concern is that, in comparison to other regulated professionals, many Costs Lawyers lack the proper training required to act on behalf of clients and before the courts.” The fact that Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) members are writing to regulatory bodies complaining about the standards required for costs lawyers is indicative of the strength of feeling felt in some quarters. When the ACL was considering whether to remain an approved regulator I was opposed to the idea. At the time I wrote: “The proposed increases to membership fees may currently seem manageable, if disproportionate to the benefits. However, they are based on a current understanding of what regulation will require. As Popplewell notes: ‘at the time of applying for authorised body status, we did not know and could not have known the implications of the act’. Precisely. In the highly unlikely event that the ALCD did acquire protected body status, there would then be no way to go back. The ALCD would not be able to decide at some future date that the benefits no longer justified the costs and simply unregulate itself. Once regulated under the Act, there is no way of knowing what may be demanded in the future. Only a moment’s thought will reveal the LSB might demand almost anything at some future date. Does the ALCD really want to lock itself into a regulatory system over which it would have no control?” In Wednesday’s post we examined JAG’s proposals for criminal advocacy quality assurance scheme. JAG’s consultation paper said: “Further consideration will be given to the question of quality assurance in relation to other areas”. There is therefore every possibility that through JAG, or a regulatory body, a decision will be made to impose advocacy assurance standards on costs lawyers. Frankly, it is amazing the ACL has been able to grant (limited) higher rights of audience based on its current training...

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Strange, but true

By on Jan 13, 2011 | 0 comments

Yesterday I popped into the local supermarket to pick up a couple of bottles of plonk. When I reached the check-out, the checkout assistant asked how old I was. When you get to my age, the years start to blur together and it took me a few moments to give the correct answer: 38. Given the assistant appeared to have doubts as to whether I was 18 or over, this was probably not the answer he was expecting. He then, in all seriousness, asked if I had any ID to prove my age. Eventually, I managed to produce something showing my date of birth as being in 1972. The assistant could not believe this. Now, those readers who have met me, and seen by worn and haggard features (I have worked in costs for the last 14 years) will obviously find this story entirely implausible. To be fair, it was cold and raining so I was wearing a baseball cap to keep my head dry. I suppose the checkout assistant must have thought I looked so “down and with the kids” that I was obviously still in my teens.  And I didn’t even have it on back-to-front. It does remind me of an occasion when I was still at university and having some drinks with friends in a pub. The girlfriend of one of those present came into the pub and showed her boyfriend a small piece of paper. She was another student at the university. It was a bus ticket. For a child. When she had asked for a ticket into town the bus driver had, without being asked, automatically issued her with a child’s ticket. At the time, children’s tickets were only available up to the age of 14. This was met with some merriment. However, as the boyfriend commented: “Don’t knock it. Some people pay good money for that kind of thing”. I have to admit that I am not asked for proof of my age on a regular basis. I think the last time was when I was in a Happy Shopper buying some vodka and Special Brew. When I was 16 or 17. Still, back to my story, I did walk out of the...

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