Despite the disappointment that no new Guideline Hourly Rates have been published, the recent review has finally killed off the argument that Guideline Hourly Rates are of no relevance to detailed assessment and are designed purely for summary assessments on the fast track.
The Costs Committee stated of the GHRs they are:
“primarily a guideline rate for summary assessments and a starting point for calculating rates in detailed assessments”
“The GHR are themselves guidelines and a benchmark for summary assessments. As such, they may provide a helpful starting point in the detailed assessment process, but no more than that.”
The Master of the Rolls wrote:
“It is also important to emphasise the the guidelines were originally intended to be broad approximations of actual rates in the market.”
This is key, the GHRs are intended to reflect the rates that solicitors actually charge in different localities. They were never intended to reflect only what solicitors charge for fast-track litigation (£409 per hour anyone?). Much less was it ever suggested that solicitors charged their clients different hourly rates, for example, for interim hearings where the court dealt with the costs by way of summary assessment as opposed to deferring the matter to detailed assessment.
David Greene, a member of the CJC Costs Committee, writing in the New Law Journal stated:
“GHRs apply largely to fast track and multi track litigation outside the fixed costs regimes. … Further while GHRS were originally introduced to assist judges with summary assessment they had become the cornerstone for all assessment.”
The Master of the Rolls concluded:
“GHRs are needed to guide summary and detailed assessment of costs.”
They are a starting point for both. Nothing more, nothing less.