Legal costs chaos
Today is the last working day before the Jackson reforms kick in.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been busy speaking at various costs conferences, giving in-house seminars to solicitors, recording podcasts, writing extensively on the new changes and speaking to numerous costs judges, costs lawyers, law costs draftsmen and specialist costs counsel.
What has become clearer by the day is how much those at the coal-face of the reforms are struggling with the basics. And by “basics” I do not necessarily mean “simple”. Much of these reforms are tricky to get to grips with at even the most fundamental level with added difficulties caused by the transitional provisions. (See previous posts on issues such as Part 47.19 offers and costs estimates.)
I’ve spoken to specialist costs counsel who had not even seen the new practice directions, much less had a chance to master them.
At one conference I recently spoke at I very unfairly asked one of the costs judges from the Senior Courts Costs Office by what further margin after 1st April 2013 he would reduce a bill he had assessed at £100,000, applying the test of reasonableness and necessity, if the amount at stake was £25,000 and he was then to apply the new proportionality test. He candidly admitted he did not know. I am not surprised as no costs judge I have spoken to over the last year has been able to give me an answer to that question.
Judges have been given just 4.5 hours of training, a quarterly newsletter and a podcast to prepare.
The total spent on judicial training was around £114,000. Iain Stark, chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers was quoted as saying:
“If you divide that by the number of judges it means we’ve spent around £150 on training each judge – I spend more on an MOT for my car.”
Have a restful Easter break.