The defendant costs specialists

Costs budgets

By on May 29, 2014 | 32 comments

Susan Dunn of Harbour Funding writing in Costs Lawyer magazine:

“We have had varied experiences with Costs Lawyers, who are a great help on detailed assessments and bill challenges at the end of cases. However, the profession has more to do in perfecting its approach to estimating how much a case is going to cost.”

I thought we were all meant to be brilliant at costs budgeting.

    32 Comments

  1. Personally, having met her, I am not a great fan of Ms Dunn but on this occasion, she is absolutely right. We are as clueless as any one else about budgeting.

    Ticklemebills

    29th May 2014

  2. There are some serious issues to be addressed on costs budgets.

    Personally I probably average about 75% to 80% recovery at budget hearings. With the rates sought this is acceptable in my opinion.

    The Defendants budgets are always agreed before the hearing. This is because, with a handful of exceptions, the Budgets are so inept (or strategic) that the mind boggles.

    Insurers and the NHSLA appear to have given the edict that Defendant budgets are to be prepared strategically and to undervalue the work required so as to make the Claimant’s Budget look bad. This was conceded by a Defendant representative in a hearing I attended before a specialist personal injury Judge.

    On about 4 separate occasions now I have had judges mark the court file that the defendant Budget was of no use whatsoever as a comparator to the Claimant’s Budget as it grossly under estimated the work required.

    I have seen £5000 for counsel to undertake a 5-day trial?? More recently £25,0000 for a QC to undertake a 10-day Trial. All I will say is get a grip as you are undermining your own position – the Judges are not fools and know what is happening

    The playing field is not level and this needs to be addressed

    abcde

    29th May 2014

  3. Those that can Budget (with all the contradictions correctly identified in previous post) Those that cannot leave this outpost and poor relation of the profession.

    These reforms are about bringing a largely unreformed (Much like the State itself) profession into the 21st century.

    How can access to justice be the litmus test when there are a million traffic claims a year clogging up a criminally under-resourced civil court system?

    Who fears true transparency and accountability?

    Perhaps the stack of self-appointed elites who are up to their eyeballs in hypocrisy – with hourly rates and their inherent uselessness just one example.

    The great depression has just brought the day of proper and ethical reform closer and there will be a lot of careerist casualties before this all works itself out.

    Weak FE’s on the main action side of things should also exhibit an ability to keep up with the changes too. We are on tip of the iceberg territory here too.

    Bill Fay

    29th May 2014

  4. At the end of the day it is an estimate and we can only estimate based on information supplied by the client and based on our own experience.

    None of us have crystal balls!! – feel free to discuss!!:)

    Anonymous

    29th May 2014

  5. We have to do budgets??

    Anonymous

    29th May 2014

  6. We are not on a level playing field particularly in Clin neg cases which are frequently funded by insurers. Counsel’s fees, experts fees and solicitors fees are low due to agreements reached with insurers. You are not comparing like for like and it is not unusual to get a QC doing a ten day trial for £25k on the basis that the QC will get repeat work.

    Anonymous

    29th May 2014

  7. I except that its an estimate

    the problem ariss when the estimate is so flawed….. eg 8 hours for disclosure on an erb’s palsy case

    or 10 hours as I have seen on a complex CP case

    You can refer to agreements with insurers and counsel etc but that doesnt stand up when the time is also wholly unrealistic

    abcde

    29th May 2014

  8. At the end of the day it is an estimate and we can only estimate based on information supplied by the client and based on our own experience.

    None of us have crystal balls!! – feel free to discuss!!:)

    Quite correct – we are not soothsayers BUT

    Reasonable and proportionate Budgets are to be agreed and for conciliation to intrude on the adversarial system is where the tension point is.

    All Mitchell did was stimulate / get the goat up of those who thought they were too good to file…the procedure folks who take advantage of a weakly resourced court system.

    Let’s see when budgetary content is put to the test…

    To conclude – litigation is unpredictable but still has a price. The crystal ball talk is lazy and shows inexperience.

    Barristers need to join the theoretical new world order too. Funny Mr Jackson did not major so much on their “costs” failings to date.

    Bill Fay

    29th May 2014

  9. Bill Fay

    Did you read the first part of the post? “we rely on what we are advised by our solicitor clients and OUR EXPERIENCE” in my opinion budgets shouldn’t be done by anyone without significant experience and I am certainly not lazy!!

    Anonymous

    30th May 2014

  10. I simply get the bathroom scales out and weigh the file to calculate the incurred costs

    Costs Master

    30th May 2014

  11. Also, do insurer deals mean that counsel will undertake a 5-day trial for £5,000. This is effectively £1000 a day and less than the daily allowance for fast track work?

    abcde

    30th May 2014

  12. Its all about crystal ball gazing.

    I arrive at this FACT based on experience, not laziness.

    Litigation is an unpredictable beast.

    All this talk about firms offering fixed fees is rubbish.

    They will offer fixed fees for everything else apart from litigation – why is that?

    Because they have the common sense to realise the unpredictable happens.

    Joe Bloggs (Costs Lawyer Esq)

    30th May 2014

  13. Common sense – not too common – around these parts anyhow.

    The unpredictable still has a price.

    This has never been a great forum for budgetary debate -so will take my leave now and check in in 18 months…

    Bill Fay

    30th May 2014

  14. What Costs Master, you use bathroom scales? Very up to date! Just lift up the file and feel the weight to work out the costs – no need for scales. I thought everyone did that.

    John Allen

    30th May 2014

  15. The problem, of course, is that most cost draftsmen are poor lawyers in that they have probably completed their Law degree and LPC but were unable to get a training contract.

    How on earth would they know how to run a case competentley? and if they don’t know, then how can they budget for a case accurately?

    This, gentlemen and women is the real Elephant in the room

    Realist

    2nd June 2014

  16. Seems pretty obvious to me. Weak fee earners produce weak budgets, regardless of whether they are coming at it as a costs person or have are handling the main claim…

    @costs master- are your scales weighing metric or imperial?

    Money for Nothing

    2nd June 2014

  17. Costs is more evolving and complex than many other areas of the law..

    Thus why so many litigation firms place trainees in costs to make them better lawyers!

    Joe Bloggs (Costs Lawyer Esq)

    2nd June 2014

  18. Starting point may be eschewing the crass straplines – such as “putting the profit back into profit costs” or disingenuously suggesting that “we wish to put ourselves out of business.”

    It’s all gone a bit beyond that now – or should have.

    Bill Fay

    2nd June 2014

  19. @ Realist – au contraire, the poor lawyers are usually those who get TC’s, and then “trained” by being RTA Portal lackeys – cheap labour at its worst. Hence one Liverpool firm advertising in the Gazette recently for a “RTA Portal fee earner” at less than minimum wage, the ad being from a “manager” who I took 2 RTA solicitors from to be draftsmen, only to find they didn’t know what happened in a case post issue….

    Anonymous

    3rd June 2014

  20. @ ‘realist’

    Dont mean to sound pedantic, but if you are going to question the abilities of others and make sweeping generalisations, at least try and spell ‘competently’ correctly (i.e. not ‘competentley’).

    Joe Bloggs (Costs Lawyer Esq)

    3rd June 2014

  21. These are the sorts of discussions that have led to all of these reforms being required in the first place.

    If common sense and reason ever came into legal costs negotiations then 95% of issues we all deal with every day, whether we are cost lawyers or draftsmen or whatever, would be dealt with with minimal bother and at much lower cost.

    Instead, we continue to engage in these school yard antics in the interests of self perpetuation.

    I have two degrees, one in history, one in law and I have my LPC. I made a positive decision to pursue a career in costs because I quickly realised that solicitors simply don’t want to deal with costs themselves. If someone wants to pay me to count their letters, or pay me to think about how many letters they may write at a future point, who is the real fool?

    lettercountingexpert.com

    3rd June 2014

  22. “The problem, of course, is that most cost draftsmen are poor lawyers in that they have probably completed their Law degree and LPC but were unable to get a training contract.”

    Yes that is very much me. Although I dont accept the poor part

    “How on earth would they know how to run a case competentley? and if they don’t know, then how can they budget for a case accurately?

    This, gentlemen and women is the real Elephant in the room”

    Actually I think I am quiet good at understanding cases and how they are conducted. Its always a joy when a Grade A solicitor prepares their own budget for the opposition as I have great fun picking it apart at hearings.

    abcde

    4th June 2014

  23. @ Joe Bloggs

    *Don’t

    Realist

    4th June 2014

  24. In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed cost lawyer is king….

    xyz

    4th June 2014

  25. Is this an English lesson, a costs debate, or proof that people have extra time on their hands as a result of falling work volumes? (tongue mostly, but not entirely, in cheek)

    Also, would like to thank everyone for not picking up the glaring typo in my last post!

    Money for Nothing

    4th June 2014

  26. Well done realist.

    However this does not have the irony of the thrust of your post i.e. trying to make costs people sound inferior but not being able to spell competence correctly.

    That aside, the only reason the solicitor should prepare the budget is that they will have superior knowledge of the case and what is likely to happen.

    Costs people have to rely on the file of papers and the competence of the solicitor and their instructions.

    Given a good file costs people are undoubtedly superior given the sheer volume and breadth of work they undertake.

    Joe Bloggs (Costs Lawyer Esq)

    4th June 2014

  27. Thank you Joe Bloggs.

    There are, no doubt, some very good costs draftsman/lawyers who are able to dissect and budget a case with ease, however, the vast majority cannot do so effectively.

    I say this whilst looking at yet another computer generated budget provided by a cost draftsman, where the assumptions and estimated time bear no resemblance to the case and where the statement of truth is incorrect.

    His arrogant reply to my objections – ‘grow up; the court will not look at this budget in that much detail, it is irrelevant if there are minor mistakes’

    Realist

    4th June 2014

  28. I is a costs lawyer and no one learned me to speak proper……….

    Ticklemebills

    4th June 2014

  29. Keyboard warriors

    John Hartson

    5th June 2014

  30. Some people are very sad indeed

    Anonymous

    5th June 2014

  31. Keyboard warrior FALCD CL BA Hons

    Ticklemebills

    5th June 2014

  32. Interesting article in today’s Litigation Futures, stating from a leading PII provider for CLowns that claims against CLowns show “a larger influx of claims and/or notifications for costs lawyers since last year”

    Stating the obvious, if claims are indeed up, doesn’t that suggest, as does the headline in this original Blog piece, that the reality is, CLowns are not all they pretend to be?

    Anonymous

    10th June 2014

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