Costs Lawyer Sue Nash, writing in Litigation Funding magazine, on the forthcoming introduction of provisional assessment for bills under £75,000 commented:
“It could lead to bills being inflated either to push them above the PA limit or to ‘limit the damage’ if they are to be provisionally assessed.”
I can certainly see this going either way. There will be some firms who have been “imaginative” in their bill drafting and/or have concerns over the state of their time records/attendance notes who might prefer to have their bills provisionally assessed rather than expose them to the full scrutiny of a detailed assessment hearing.
On the other hand there will be plenty looking to avoid what will be viewed as the rough justice of a provisional assessment, and clearly wanting to avoid the limited costs recoverable, and will look to push the bill over £75,000. How many entries will we start to see under documents for “20 hours for general perusals and preparation of file notes from time to time (estimated)”? (That alone would add £10,416 at Band 1 Grade A rates with a 100% success fee and VAT.) How many entirely speculative claims for 1,000 pages of internal photocopying at £1 per page?
Of course, where a court determines that a bill has been deliberately inflated to push it into detailed assessment the court may order the party at fault to pay the detailed assessment costs.
On the other hand, some courts might take the view that where the paying party believes this has occurred the onus is on them to apply to the court for an order requiring the bill to be amended in advance of a request for assessment and that leaving it to a final hearing is too late to raise the point. How long before we see the first applications?