18 November, 2013

Guideline hourly rates for costs lawyers and law costs draftsmen

Filed UnderLegal Costs  

The Civil Justice Council’s Costs Committee is currently undertaking a review into Guideline Hourly Rates. As part of that process they are considering whether to introduce a further category of fee earner for costs lawyers and costs clerks (their term not mine).

If this is done, will costs lawyers be placed in a higher category to costs clerks? Would non-costs lawyers be able to obtain similar rates as costs lawyers where they had “equivalent experience”? If so, what would that amount to? Would the costs lawyer qualification count for more than simply the number of years working in costs?

Comments

23 Responses to “Guideline hourly rates for costs lawyers and law costs draftsmen”

  1. Money Money Money on November 18th, 2013 8:51 am

    Simon, I think you’re backtracking on your moratorium i.e. costs draftsman v costs lawyer debate.

    The fact that you have also used the term ”costs clerk” not once but twice (i know its their words, but the second time you should have said costs draftsman) i feel this is going to transcend into vicious and nasty comments today.

    I also notice your post last week about costs draftsmens rights of audience.

    You should be ashamed of yourself. Although, it has been a bit boring without the overly attacking, sometimes irrational and blood boiling comments that this subject evokes.

  2. Anonymous on November 18th, 2013 10:09 am

    as long as they pitch the rates for all costs practitioners above that of the office cat (as it presently is) then all well and good.
    the problem is, they wont. and as ever the stupid CL debate will now rise. Personally, IDC what the title is, I know my opponents and if they have the paper without the goods, they get short shrift, usually from the Court too

    btw, what rates then for Counsel dealing with costs??

  3. Counsel on November 18th, 2013 11:38 am

    Anon

    Counsel’s fees should not be assessed on an hourly rate basis.

  4. Money Money Money on November 18th, 2013 12:43 pm

    Counsel are not accountable in the same way that costs draftsmen are.

    This is true for all costs draftsmen, whether they choose to call themselves costs consultants, costs negotiators, costs lawyers, costs muppets etc etc!

    Lets all gang up on costs counsel. They are a disgraceful bunch!

  5. Anonymous on November 18th, 2013 1:11 pm

    @ Counsel

    why? your brief is supposed to be calculated at a rate, for the work you do. Too long have the Bar been protected in the fees it claims. You want to take work from costs specialists, then you take the same rates and conditions they do

  6. anonnn on November 18th, 2013 2:42 pm

    If there is a new grade to encompass costs it would surely cover all types of costs fee earners. It will be at the bottom of the ladder.

    1.Solicitors with over eight years post qualification experience including at least eight years litigation experience.
    2.Solicitors and legal executives with over four years post qualification experience including at least four years litigation experience.
    3.Other solicitors and legal executives and fee earners of equivalent experience.
    4.Trainee solicitors, para legals and other fee earners.
    5.Costs clerks, costs draftsmen, costs agents, and costs lawyers (ACL accredited).

  7. Anonymous on November 18th, 2013 3:00 pm

    @ anonnn

    nonsense. I know from long experience that I (and I have no doubt at all the same goes for many fellow draftsmen) know a great deal more about the Law and the proper running of the majority of PI claims through dealing with costs and advising solicitors frankly where they have gone and seeking to rectify their errors. and that is before you take advocacy and budgeting into the mix

    if costs experts of this type are to be classified, it must at least be above Grade C and arguably as close as to Grade B as to make no difference

    interestingly, I note the Survey refers to “qualified costs lawyers”. I say no more on the subject

  8. Counsel on November 18th, 2013 3:55 pm

    Anon said:

    “Too long have the Bar been protected in the fees it claims. You want to take work from costs specialists, then you take the same rates and conditions they do”

    I don’t want to take work from anyone- I work with very good costs lawyers all the time but my role is different to theirs and attracts different remuneration.

  9. anonnn on November 18th, 2013 4:00 pm

    You seem to be advocating various grades of costs practitioners (C/B, qualified/non-qualified) and if that is the case then they could just be incorporated into the current grades e.g. Grade C… qualified costs lawyer, Grade D… costs clerk.

    I still think that if there is a separate grade for costs, it will be distinct and will cover all costs practitioners even if there are brackets of figures.

    I also cannot see the CJCCC or a court finding that a costs lawyer is entitled to a higher rate than a 3yr PQE solicitor. Even if you think you know more about how to run a PI claim, you are not in fact running a PI claim. It goes against all proportionality considerations to have a higher hourly rate in costs proceedings.

  10. Truly Elephant Costs Professional on November 18th, 2013 4:55 pm

    This sounds like it’s just going to cause more grief.

    I’m regularly informed that, as a costs draftsman, I’m “never” going to recover grade C rates. I then apply for summary assessment of my costs and guess what? Grade C rates are reasonable for the type of work undertaken.

    Do we really need even more ambiguity as to what rates we can recover?

  11. Anonymous on November 18th, 2013 5:04 pm

    @ Counsel

    the blog subject relates to the setting of rates for draftsmen. Ergo, it relates to the work done BY draftsmen, be that in billing, assessment or advocacy

    In that context, the question was posed, what rate would counsel be allowed for doing draftsman’s work i.e. we are all aware many counsel now involve themselves in advocacy, which traditionally draftsmen would have done?

    Your response is that “counsels fees should not be assessed on an hourly rate basis”. Why is that please? Counsel undertaking costs advocacy attend the same hearings, prepare the case the same, why does an hourly rate not apply? Justifying any brief, will still have as its basic consideration, what charge rate counsel applies , and their time spent, prep and the first 5 hours of the hearing. I for one would be content to adopt Counsels charging regime – all too often I am fully prepared for a hearing having passed valuable work to a colleague, only for the hearing to settle and me being left

    That in turn begs the question, was counsel needed, especially if the rate for a draftsman advocate is going to be set lower for being as proficient at the same job?

    In your subsequent response, you say “my role is different to theirs and attracts different remuneration.” We were with respect talking about equivalency with drafters work, however, could you please qualify what work it is you do that is different to drafters (and in this I do not distinguish between Cost Lawyers or costs draftsmen as it is a redundant issue)and cannot be done by drafters, and which leads to this different remuneration? I for one would certainly like to explore this different avenue of work

  12. Anonymous on November 18th, 2013 5:24 pm

    @ anonnn

    “It goes against all proportionality considerations to have a higher hourly rate in costs proceedings.”

    really? where have you been for the past 13 years, while the Costs Wars have changed the whole Legal Profession and led to a re-write of the rules? Costs have taken up more Appeal time than any other subject, and still they argue. Costs proceedings are the VERY place for higher rates

  13. Money Money Money on November 18th, 2013 6:07 pm

    Given my adopted name on this blog i tend to agree with the notion that costs draftsmen deserve to be paid more than solicitors, or costs counsel for that matter.

    Only QC’s should be paid more, and this should only be a marginal amount to reflect their status.

    Costs Lawyers should be given a reduction for being the pompous milk snatching despicable bunch that they truly are!

  14. anonnn on November 18th, 2013 6:23 pm

    Proportionality is a key factor for there being a limit on provisional assessment costs. Proportionality is a key factor for the extension of portals to EL/PL claims and for fixed costs that fall out of the portals. The overriding objective was amended to include proportionate cost, one can’t ignore it.

    You must appreciate from the recent reforms that the “costs of costs” are viewed dimly by the courts and the government? The provisional assessment results that I have seen indicate that certain courts/judges simply do not like dealing with costs. Following this argument into the general climate of austerity and costs control, it is unlikely that costs practitioners will be rewarded with an increased hourly rate for dealing with an area of law that government is trying to eradicate with automated processes.

    I will be very surprised if the CJCCC recommends that, as a basic guideline starting-point, a costs lawyer/draftsman/clerk can justify a comparable hourly rate to a qualified solicitor.

    I hope I am wrong.

  15. Charles Wheatcroft on November 19th, 2013 3:27 pm

    Is there any merit in raising the issue of overheads and the expense of time?

    It has been mentioned before in a similar debate as costs draftsman do not generally require as much back-office support or massive insurance premiums compared to a solicitor’s practice.

    I would imagine that a grade D rate has a massive profit element to most draftspeople.

  16. domthedrafty on November 19th, 2013 6:46 pm

    Honestly, it doesn’t cause enough of an issue now that the CJCC should be bothered with it.

    @Charles…what about a costs draftsman who is part of a firm of solicitors? or a costs firm which is a solicitors practice? or an ABS costs firm etc etc

  17. Charles Wheatcroft on November 20th, 2013 10:33 am

    domthedrafty

    I am a costs draftsman working in a solicitors practice! I also undertake freelance work so I know what my own profit margins are.

    I guess there is no one size fits all approach but arguing that a lower rate prevents a minority from profiting from certain types of work is a little old-fashioned is it not?

    Clients can choose to instruct a firm which is more expensive where their hourly rate pays for plush premises with marble floors and fresh coffee but don’t expect the other side to pay for these luxuries. Does this ring a bell at all?

    Charles

  18. Money Money Money on November 20th, 2013 11:32 am

    I agree but it is obviously a risk putting our fate in the hands of people who do not know how complicated costs can be.

    If the true nature of the job was better understood we might have half a chance.

    Fact is most people in the legal profession think costs is easy and boring letter counting.

    You can use the analogy of building a house. I have never undertaken manual work but it seems simple – you get some cement and put one brick on top of the other.

    Same thing with costs. It appears simple, and untrained or incompetent people can appear to know what they are doing.

    The danger is when you move into the house, or send your bill to court for assessment, when its put under scrutiny the whole thing would probably cave in due to dodgy foundations.

  19. Ian Cosgrove on November 20th, 2013 1:16 pm

    Excellent analogy Mr Money. I am drafting a skele at the moment as to why a Receiving Party should not get a success fee due to their Costs Draftsmens failure to comply with 32.5. I expect to win at DA. This is basic stuff that shouldnt happen. I know that,most people who frequent this forum know what they have to serve with a NoC. Why should those of us who know what we are doing get the same rate of remuneration as those who clearly do not ? One size does not fit all !

  20. Anonymous on November 20th, 2013 3:15 pm

    Shame Counsel’s gone silent, was looking forward to diversifying…….

  21. Dave MArsh on November 22nd, 2013 3:41 pm

    I always reply to the ubiquitous “we’ll give you around 40% of the time at Grade D” with something similar to;

    “But were Claimant solicitors knowledgeable about the world of costs, there would be no need for them to instruct costs draftsmen. Even a simple Bill of Costs holds complexities for those unsure of its provisions. Careful checking of the same takes some time. The Grade A fee earner had conduct of the matter at conclusion; it is not unreasonable for them to “sign off” the Bill of Costs

    In the spirit of negotiation, the Claimant offers x units at Grade A for the checking of the Bill

    With respect to the costs draftsman’s time; the drafter of the Bill is assiduous with his time keeping (and can evidence the time spent at DA if necessary), the time spent drafting the 13 page Bill, 9 pages of Schedules, a detailed 7 page narrative and drafting associated documents (including, inter alia, the N252, letter serving bill, letter to instructing solicitors) was 9.4 hours

    However, in the spirit of negotiation, 8.5 hours is offered

    With respect to the cost draftsman’s hourly rate, it is the Claimant’s submission that costs draftsmen in general are often more trained, legally, that the fee earners that they draft for, the role requiring not only an expert knowledge of costs law but also a detailed working knowledge of civil litigation procedure. The Claimant maintains the Grade C rate for the costs draftsman as reasonable.

    With respect to the costs draftsman, the SCCO has passed guidance that a simple Bill of less than £10,000.00 is within the capability of a Grade D fee earner; this was a complicated Bill, in excess of £xx,000.00 and as such a Grade C rate should apply

    Furthermore, the Bill drafter has over 10 years’ experience in both civil litigation , costs litigation and advocacy and was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple in 2009; the Grade C rate is reasonable”

    From the comments in this post;

    I call myself costs counsel – costs counsel a disgraceful bunch – pur-leeze – I am a masters level law graduate with the BVC and advocacy experience (albeit have not secured pupillage) and many years of experience in both active civil litigation and costs – Josy Jo, from the DEF firm that chirps up 20 days after the N252 with an offer of 30% of the Bill asking for an extension for Points so she can seek instructions but isn’t prepared to discuss any element of the Bill without instructions and can’t agree anything without instructions and doesn’t even know what time it is or how to wipe her own chair-warmer without instructions – who is the disgrace?

    I am happy with Grade C – if I were to get Grade B I would be happier still

    The ACL amuse me – why should they demand Grade B+ when their members are such as they are; so they are regulated – well woo, but they aren’t educated to the level of solicitors and are not professionals as are solicitors and / or counsel

  22. Anonymous on November 22nd, 2013 5:47 pm

    @ DM

    you make some pertinent points, but leave them wrapped up in conceited rhetoric.

    congratulations on your masters and BVC. Many of us have neither, but stuck to the career of first choice. If you think most costing is difficult to warrant Grade C, however, perhaps you should leave costs work. Dealing with negotiations and advocacy (including Replies), yes, Grade C, but counting letters, really??

    I distain the ACL also, however, your comments about not being as educated or professional, how very sad of you

  23. anonnn on November 25th, 2013 2:27 pm

    ..”stuck to the career of first choice”..

    Ha! That is brilliant.

Leave a Reply