Legal Cost Specialists

Provisional assessment pilot hailed a success

The Provisional Assessment Pilot, only one year into the two year pilot, has been hailed a success by Lord Justice Jackson (see Report on the Provisional Assessment Pilot). He recommends that it is rolled out nationally.

The scheme covers bills up to £25,000. The first thought is how are junior law costs draftsmen and costs lawyers going to gain advocacy experience if these bills are all assessed on paper (a similar kind of problem the junior bar faces with the loss of much low level advocacy to solicitors)? The second thought is how many bills under £25,000 will there be once fixed fees are extended across the fast-track? The third thought is have I got a big enough pension pot to consider early retirement?

The report advises there were 119 cases in the pilot during the first year. After provisional assessment only 2 cases proceeded to an oral hearing. In neither case did the requesting party achieve an improvement of 20% or more upon what it had secured in the provisional assessment. There’s a surprise.

The average time spent on each provisional assessment was 37 minutes and the median time was 40 minutes. Experience during the second year of the pilot suggests that where provisional assessment is carried out by a district judge who is not a regional costs judge (and therefore has less experience of assessing costs) 60 minutes should be allowed for the exercise. Make of that what you will.

The report found that the process is far cheaper for the parties than traditional detailed assessment, because (save in rare cases) they avoid the costs of preparing for and attending a hearing. DJs Hill and Bedford estimate that the savings for the parties are at least £4,000 per case. (Not a thought for the poor lawyers who find themselves out of pocket. It’s like trying to encourage healthy lifestyles without a thought for the doctors and nurses who may find themselves out of work as a result.)

It looks as though provisional assessment will be rolled out nationally at the same time as the other major costs reforms (currently October 2012 although there are some suggestions this may be pushed back to April 2013).

Sir Rupert’s recent lecture on Assessment of Costs in the Brave New World reveals a number of important forthcoming amendments to the CPR and Costs Practice Direction. I’ll deal with some of these in bite size pieces over the coming days.

5 thoughts on “Provisional assessment pilot hailed a success”

  1. Someone will need draft those detailed 50 page written submissions (I mean brief and concise PODs and replies)- fear not!

  2. Tis true

    if its being done on paper you make sure you throw the works at it. Can you imagine the submissions on the success fee for a trip and slip / clin neg ….

  3. Concise PODS/RPODS work if the assessing DJ has a good knowledge of costs law. Is 60 minutes sufficient for a DJ with little knowledge of costs law to assess a bill if he or she has to keep referring to case law and CPR?

    Should the assessment fee be reduced to reflect its going to be paper application with a further fee if oral hearing needed?

    Think its sensible for both parties to make strong early part 47.19 offers – all too often we receive PODS with no offers and then its only after matter set down for assessment that pp reverts with part 47.19. Should encourage earlier settlement and only run those cases which should be run.

    As for summary assessment forms being re drafted – not so sure as the whole point of summary assessment is summary assessment! Form looks like a shorter version of a bill.

  4. Yikes, I noticed in the example Precedent G that of all the examples for disputes that they could have used. They inserted one for the costs draftsman’s (not cost lawyer I note) time being excessive. A held perception?

  5. so on the basis of 119 cases (out of how many hundreds of thousand of costs claims?) provisionally assessed by 2 of the most experienced RCJ’s out there, Jackson jumps another bandwagon and brings it in early?

    Utter madness

    Still, it’ll kill off all the draftsmen who dont present their clients bills properly; and all those negotiations who profligate their “cut and paste” objections

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