The defendant costs specialists

Posts made in July, 2011

26 hour working day

By on Jul 29, 2011 | 11 comments

The Metro newspaper recently reported on the trial of a solicitor who allegedly claimed for 26 hours work in a single day as part of a plot to cheat Legal Aid out of more than £300,000. Also standing trial was a legal executive, with the prosecution claiming: “He attended Leicester crown court from his home in the Midlands but they claimed as if he had commuted daily from London, and submitted forged taxi receipts’. Also accused was costs draughtsman (sic) Robert Odong, with the prosecution saying: Odong ‘appears responsible for hand-written alterations to attendance notes and taxi receipts’. I can’t understand why a solicitor should be put through this kind of indignity. Presumably the solicitor signed some kind of Legal Aid form to confirm that the claim for costs was accurate. That should be an end to the matter and it should be accepted without further ado that the 26 hours per day was accurate. We all know the importance to be placed on a signature by an officer of the Court (see Bailey v IBC Vehicles [1998] EWCA Civ 566). As for a dishonest law costs draftsman, the very...

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NHSLA warning on costs reforms?

By on Jul 27, 2011 | 0 comments

The Law Society Gazette recently reported: “NHS lawyers warned the government before it published its bill on legal aid reform that scrapping legal aid for clinical negligence claims would ‘massively’ escalate NHS legal costs, and leave some seriously injured people unable to bring cases. … The body, which is responsible for handling claims against the NHS, said reducing legal aid would lead claimants to make greater use of conditional fee agreements (CFAs), which would increase the legal costs the NHSLA would have to pay when it lost a case”. The article continued: “It said the proposed partial implementation of Lord Jackson’s recommendations, without the removal of recoverability of uplifts and after-the-event insurance premiums, would result in an overall increase in public expenditure”. And therein lies the answer. The NHSLA was presumably commenting, at the time, on the proposals for removing legal aid from clinical negligence claims. There were opposed to this change if Lord Justice Jackson’s proposals to end recoverability of success fees and ATE premiums were not implemented. However, given the government is pressing ahead with that change, one might think the headline “NHS lawyers warned government that reforms would escalate its costs” was somewhat misleading under the circumstances. The article then gave a quote from Shadow Justice Minister Andrew Slaughter MP: “On almost every occasion that the government is asked to justify its cuts to legal assistance in clinical negligence cases, it points to the cost to the NHS. Now we find the NHS’s own lawyers are saying it is immoral and economically misguided to prevent brain-damaged children and adults from getting justice. This government just isn’t listening.” In fact, the government did listen to the NHSLA’s concern about removing legal aid from clinical negligence without also implementing Lord Justice Jackson’s...

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Regulating legal services

By on Jul 26, 2011 | 0 comments

The Legal Services Board is to investigate will writing after the board’s consumer panel found that solicitors and will writers were equally responsible for substandard wills. The LSB will consider whether to make will writing a reserved activity meaning it could be regulated. There can be no doubt that will writing should be regulated but this largely misses the point. Solicitors are currently regulated but apparently their will writing skills are no better than those who are unregulated. Regulation allows for complaints to be made if something goes wrong and, for the worst cases of clear negligence causing loss provides the opportunity of compensation via compulsory insurance. However, alone it does not address the underlying problem and trying to bring a successful negligence claim, even where there is insurance in place, can be a long and difficult task. It also fails entirely to deal with the substandard work where the client does not realise that it is substandard or has caused a loss. (How many people are unaware they should have been beneficiaries but for a negligently drafted will?) The problem, which regulation alone, fails to address is poor standards. In the legal costs field there are plenty of solicitors, barristers, legal executives, law costs draftsmen, costs lawyers and legal costs negotiators providing poor advice. Some are regulated and some are not. Regulation is not synonymous with, and no substitute for, high standards. That is where the focus should...

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Access to Justice Action Group: clinical negligence claims to increase

By on Jul 25, 2011 | 1 comment

I don’t want to sound like a stuck record, but the inconsistent, and often incoherent, anti-Jackson rhetoric shows no signs of abating. The Access to Justice Action Group (AJAG) recently issued a press release with the headline “Jackson reforms set to costs NHS £105.55 million”. Now, you’ve never seen such a selective and garbled use of statistics in your life for them to arrive at this figure but let’s take it at face value and accept entirely the claims made in the press release (and you can check that this is really what it says). The methodology starts by giving their “robust estimate of a 25% fall in cases”. (It’s not quite clear what this is based on, or, indeed, where this figures disappears to in the following analysis). It then proceeds to explain the “role of CFA funding (including success fees and ATE) in weeding out unmeritorious claims is well illustrated from the statistics for clinical negligence. … This demonstrates that the checks in CFA cases weed out a higher proportion of unmeritorious cases than other forms of funding. QOCS will not deliver that review, so even on these figures there could be at least 12% more unsuccessful cases under QOCS which the NHSLA would have to deal with at a cost to them, even if those cases fail to secure damages”. So, we can expect a 12% increase in unsuccessful claims compared to current numbers. They then continue: “The impact assessment makes clear that its assumptions do not take account of the incentivisation of more cases being pursued under the Government plans for QOCS; or the proportion of cases funded by CFA, which has now been established at 2/3rds. If on a conservative estimate only half of those claims presently weeded out by ATE proceed, the potential increase in claims will be up to 1/3rd more, as 2/3rds of cases are presently funded that way. And even if only half of these succeed (and the success rate can be expected to be higher than that), then that will be an increase of just over 15% in costs on successful cases (4% more than predicted savings); to which can be added the additional 10% in general damages (c...

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Summary assessment

By on Jul 22, 2011 | 0 comments

A further definition from The (Alternative) Legal Costs Dictionary: Summary assessment n. similar to detailed assessment but with the advocacy conducted by those with no knowledge of legal costs law and overseen by a judge with even less knowledge of the relevant law and no time to properly perform the task in any event. The outcome of which is less predictable than the winner of a race down a windowpane between two...

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