Legal Cost Specialists

Provisional costs assessment

By on Feb 6, 2013 | 16 comments

The new rules for provisional assessment will apparently follow the provisional assessment pilot scheme which requires the receiving party to file with the court not much more than a copy of the bill of costs, a copy of the points of dispute, a copy of any replies served, a copy of all costs orders and copies of the fee notes.

The solicitors’ actual file of papers does not need to be filed.

Given provisional assessment will apply to bills up to £75,000 it may well cover claims for costs that include, for example, a conference with counsel and a medical expert together with two fee earners from the solicitors. How is a judge possibly meant to consider the reasonableness or, where appropriate, the proportionality of that step without sight of the instructions to counsel or the expert and without sight of the relevant attendance note?

Provisional assessment may well be intended to amount to rough justice but the new rules have abandoned even the merest pretence of offering any form of justice to either party. Implementation of the Jackson reforms is rapidly descending into an omnishambles.

Apparently the Senior Courts Costs Office has recognised the unworkable nature of these rules and will require in all cases before them, as they are entitled to order, that the solicitors’ full papers are to be lodged. The SCCO is to be heartily congratulated on this step, not least because they obviously recognise the extra drain this will undoubtedly place on their already stretched resources.

Best of luck if you find yourself outside London.


  1. It’s good to see that this latest change is accepted as a step too far. Do they have any intention of listening to people who work on the coal face?

    I’m afraid that even with lodging the papers I personally think this is just a work around solution and justice can only be done with oral submissions

    hey ho, that’s just me


    6th February 2013

  2. have it on good authority, PA will be relegated to “box work” for most DJ’s, but in reality down to DDJ’s to do.
    Good luck in getting a decision, better luck in getting a hearing for oral submissions within a year!


    6th February 2013

  3. I agree with the above comment – it is inevitable that time constraints will not allow all the papers to be considered properly, even if they have been filed


    6th February 2013

  4. “Provisional assessment may well be intended to amount to rough justice but the new rules have abandoned even the merest pretence of offering any form of justice to either party. Implementation of the Jackson reforms is rapidly descending into an omnishambles.”

    At last, something I agree with!


    6th February 2013

  5. Be careful what you wish for…

    John Hartson

    6th February 2013

  6. A Regional Costs Judges told me recently that he isn’t even allotted extra time to prepare for hearings as he is meant to carry a normal case load. He had to prepare for my hearing in his free time. Costs is truly the ginger step child of the legal profession.


    6th February 2013

  7. Pure lunacy – the courts would have struggled even at £25K. Can we assume the larger cases will go to the SCCO or RCJ’s as now?? Will the rules (due out next week)even cover this?? And don’t forget that DDJs don’t even get the one day judicial training on the reforms!

    Sue Nash

    6th February 2013

  8. Somewhat hard to swallow when you receive a provisionally assessed bill that caps your hourly rate at £165 when they have just charged you £325 for the 37 minutes they spent assessing it…

    Pete B

    6th February 2013

  9. the average prov assmt in the pilot was 37 minutes!!
    how anyone can think 37 mins is enough to properly read and consider pods, replies and a bill is a mystery


    6th February 2013

  10. What is to stop a paying party putting in standardised objections that amount to 30 minutes work but given enough scope to achieve something akin to 20 to 30% off the bill having regard to a challenge to rates and documents and the odd expert / counsel fee

    that’s 30 minutes work for their own costs.

    Then dont make an offer – i know what the rules say but you cannot compell anyone to make an offer

    Then when the judge assesses they get 20% to 30% off and DA costs capped at £1500

    Win win for a waying party – save £20,000, minimal own costs and nominal DA costs to pay

    only caveat is that every matter goes to an already strained court service


    6th February 2013

  11. well, they have to maintain the fund for the Judges pensions somehow, dont you know………


    6th February 2013

  12. Annon:

    To me the logical fudge for the court is a 60% recovery across the board.

    The PP has to get it down to 40% on a challenge and RP up to 80%. In most cases it will be difficult to do either

    On a similar note, the provisional assessment does appear, on the face of it, to encourage an everything but the kitchen sink approach for the RP. It’s harder to defend a lean bill without making the judge go through the papers.

    If you weed out your solicitor own client only (SOCO) stuff (which I do) you might only claim 20 letters instead of 30. If the defendant raises a challenge to the number of letters on the basis they are SOCO, which is more likely:

    The DJ will not reduce 20 recoverable letters as claimed.


    The DJ will allow more than 20 letters if you claim 30.

    From a RP pov it is the latter.

    It’s a joke.

    Full time costs officers in local courts or all matters dealt with centrally in the SCCO. Either would suit me.

    Robert Pettitt

    6th February 2013

  13. @ annon 06.02.13 6:07 – isnt this what Defendants do already with their PoDs……

    @RP 6.2.13 9:46 surely one of the most logical answers, is to employ Cost Lawyers to assess the bills……….


    7th February 2013

  14. Can anyone give me a quote for the following?

    Attending at the SCCO (following the provisional assessment of a file of mine);
    collecting, labelling and taping up a large box of papers; and
    sending the box by post or DX back to me in Yorkshire.

    Timothy P

    8th February 2013

  15. Simon,rough and ready certainly. Federal jurisdiction in Australia has a similar arrangement but for all matters. So the taxing officer will assess a bill for millions of dollars, without reference to the solicitor’s files, even where cost orders are issues based. Very problematic!

    liz Harris

    9th February 2013

  16. Robert Pettitt: “The PP has to get it down to 40% on a challenge and RP up to 80%.” Not so! New CPR 47.15(10) refers. If the court provisionally assesses a bill at £60000, the PP actually has to get it down to £48000 on a challenge and the RP has to get it up to £72000.

    Timothy P

    14th February 2013

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