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Legal Costs

White Paper Costs Conference

By on Jan 23, 2019 | 0 comments

The White Paper Conference Company has lined up another excellent costs conference on Costs Litigation: Shaping New Law into Solution-Focused Answers for Your Clients on 13 March 2019.  The speakers include: Regional Costs Judge Ian Besford, Alexander Hutton QC, Judith Ayling (39 Essex Street), Roger Mallalieu (4 New Square), David Marshall (Anthony Gold Solicitors), Alice Nash (Hailsham Chambers), Master Jason Rowley, and PJ Kirby QC. Priced at just £249 plus VAT including lunch and refreshments.  Book at: https://whitepaper.co.uk/conferences/costs19/...

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Friston on Costs

By on Jan 9, 2019 | 2 comments

Shortly before Christmas the new edition of Friston on Costs landed on my doormat.  Obviously, I do not mean that literally.  They have yet to design a letterbox large enough for a book this size and, if you order online, the description has a two-person delivery symbol beside it to indicate the number needed to carry it. The first edition of this book, still less than 10 years old, ran to 1,245 pages ignoring the preface and contents pages.  This third edition comes in at 2,138 pages and now comes in a heavy cloth binding. Fortunately, this is not a case of “never mind the quality, feel the width”. Since the second edition was published (in 2012), the costs world has seen a continuous stream of new case law.  This is all seamlessly introduced into the new edition.  However, more importantly, the intervening period has also seen the introduction of the Jackson reforms.  This led to major changes to the cost rules, the introduction of entirely new areas of costs procedure (such as costs budgeting) and the inevitable explosion of further case law on the new procedures.  This new edition is therefore not simply a general update but is, in large part, a comprehensive rewrite. The overall scope of the book is an encyclopaedic as ever.  This will be the first port of call for research by all costs practitioners and costs judges.  (I have already found it indispensable to securing a win on a point of principle.)  No topic – however obscure – appears to have been overlooked. This latest addition includes more general commentary on costs law – from both the author and other legal commentators – than previous editions.  This is welcome.  The fact that there is generally only a finite amount of case law from the higher courts on costs law, combined with the fact that much of the Jackson reforms are still settling in, means that any guidance or thoughts from respected costs experts is to be warmly embraced. Unfortunately, advocates are unlikely to want to carry a copy of this book to court in addition to a copy of the White Book.  (Did I mention the size of Friston on Costs?)  Fortunately, the...

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Most Outstanding Legal Costs Litigation Firm 2018 – London

By on Aug 8, 2018 | 0 comments

The first problem with the vanity legal awards industry is that they are often ridiculously wide in the nature of the awards they seek to distribute, to the extent to which the awards are meaningless (even if they were distributed on merit). For example, Wealth & Finance INTL magazine previously awarded Gibbs Wyatt Stone ‘Most Outstanding Law Firm of 2016, the UK’.  I would not argue with the outstanding nature of the work we undertake but modesty does call even me to question whether a niche costs firm can ever seriously be considered the best law firm in the whole country (even if only for 2016). Alternatively, they give “awards” that are not remotely appropriate to the firm in question (eg we have been offered “Asset Manager of the Year – North America”).  You might think they would take a little more trouble to find out what kind of a firm they are contacting before sending the email out. Fair play then to Acquisition International magazine for awarding Gibbs Wyatt Stone ‘Most Outstanding Legal Costs Litigation Firm 2018 – London’.  This at least shows they have the sense to consider the nature of the work undertaken by the firm before sending out a targeted email.  I am not sure it is sufficient to persuade me to sign up to one of their packages to promote winning this “prestigious” award, such as: The Exclusive Package – 1,450 GBP – (Limited spaces available) – Supporting image and headline on the front cover of the magazine – A 4-page editorial inclusion in the first 20 pages – 3 hard copies of the edition your inclusion appears in – Your inclusion replicated on the homepage of our website – Your inclusion in the monthly newsletter, for 3 months – A 3-month web banner – 3 bespoke crystal trophies – A personalized digital logo for use in your own marketing – High-resolution PDF copies of your inclusion These online only magazines are clearly not read by anybody (other than other reward recipients wanting to read their own self-written glowing testimonials).       It is clear from the contents of this magazine, by way of example only, that there are legal and financial firms across the...

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VAT Skeleton Argument

By on Mar 8, 2016 | 9 comments

The last increase in the VAT rate occurred on 4 January 2011. It is therefore surprising, to say the least, that some receiving parties appear to be still ignorant of the rules relating to work undertaken when the VAT rate was lower (15% or 17.5%). (Of course, it is perfectly possible that this is simply a wheeze to try to recover VAT at a higher rate and then pocket the difference between that actually charged.) In any event, I have updated my VAT Skeleton Argument and the links to the relevant documents on Legal Costs...

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Not so fixed fees

By on Feb 23, 2016 | 6 comments

I’m not sure if Lord Justice Jackson has recently started taking backhanders from the Association of Costs Lawyers but, if so, I’d be happy to start contributing to the payments. How else to explain his proposals for the extension of fixed fees? Payments are to be linked to one of ten different phases with endless scope for arguing it was premature to undertake a particular phase (eg Witness Statements), full payment for each phase is subject to it being “completed” (what does “completed” mean?), or 50% payment if a phase has been “substantially started” (what does this mean?). It would not be difficult for a costs firm to set up a business model offering to maximise solicitors’ recovery based on these proposals and charging on a contingency fee basis. The real problem with these proposals, I would suggest, it not a practical one but, rather at a more fundamental level. (And I do not simply mean whether it is realistic or fair to try to have fixed fees at all.) There are two basic approaches to recovery of inter partes costs. The first is to have a fixed fee system where the fees are fixed by reference to the nature of the litigation, or the complexity of the case, or the value of the claim, or a combination of these elements. Under this system, the actual work undertaken is irrelevant. The second approach is to have a system which attempts to set the level of fees payable based on the amount of work actually done. This is the existing (if imperfect) hourly rate system we currently have (for those cases not already subject to fixed fees). The more work (reasonably) undertaken, the greater the payment. Jackson LJ’s proposals run the danger of conflating the two different systems. If we are to have fixed fees, why should it matter whether a solicitor has, for example, completed work in relation to witness statements, or substantially started work in relation to witness statement, or, indeed, done any work concerning witness statements? What does a fixed fee system partially based on the work actually done add to the supposed benefits (certainty, end to costs budgeting, end to costs disputes) of fixed costs generally?...

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Jackson fixed fees problems

By on Feb 19, 2016 | 5 comments

Lord Justice Jackson’s suggested rules and grid for introducing fixed fees for all claims with a value of up to £250,000 (which he suggested could be accomplished this year if the political will is there) rather has the appearance of being put out there, not necessarily with the intention it will be formally adopted in its current form but, rather, out of a sense of frustration at the lack of progress to date and is designed simply to start discussion on the issue. It may, perhaps, therefore be unfair to be overly critical of the proposals in their current form. Nevertheless, let us take them at face value as they currently stand. There appear to be two obvious problems. The first relates to the decision that the grid of fixed fees should follow the ten stages set in Precedent H for costs budgeting. This is on the basis that: “Practitioners are now familiar with this structure and reasonably comfortable with it. Although ‘boundary disputes’ are inevitable in any structure, they will be reduced if we stick to the now established division of tasks”. The Guidance Notes for preparing costs budgets state that the Pre-action phase should not include any incurred work relating to other phases of the budget. For example, if work is done in relation to witness statements pre-proceedings, that should go in the Witness Statements phase under “Incurred” costs, not in the Pre-Action phase. This is not an issue with costs budgeting as recording work under any particular phase does not trigger any payment. However, how does this work with the Jackson grid? In any case that settles pre-action in a claimant’s favour there will have been some negotiations, even if only a single offer and acceptance. Does this therefore trigger an entitlement to the whole Negotiations/ADR fixed fee in addition to the Pre-action fee? If so, why bother with a separate phase for Negotiations/ADR if it will always be triggered? Similar issues apply to phases such as Expert Reports or Witness Statements where some work may have been done pre-action. The second problem, which does not appear to solve the first, is the proposed rule that: “The fixed cost is payable only if a work stage...

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