Posts made in May, 2013

Association of Costs Lawyers' Annual Conference

By on May 13, 2013 | 7 comments

The Association of Costs Lawyers held their Annual Conference last Friday and Saturday and it was another spectacular event. The line-up of speakers and panel members read like a Who’s Who of the legal costs world including (not an exhaustive list): The Hon. Mr Justice Ramsey Robert Marvern Andrew Hogan Alexander Hutton QC Professor Dominic Regan Regional Costs Judge Ian Besford Simon Browne QC Judith Ayling Master Peter Hurst Master Colin Campbell Master Andrew Gordon-Saker Master Peter Howarth Regional Costs Judge Christopher Lethem Regional Costs Judge Simon Middleton The event provided an invaluable insight into the massive changes currently happening in the area of costs law but two particular things struck me: 1. The cost of a large gin and tonic at the hotel bar. £17.10 (seventeen pounds and ten pence). Being a wealthy Costs Lawyer, this didn’t bother me but I felt sorry for someone less conspicuously wealthy, such as a Premier League footballer or a Russian oligarch, making the mistake of ordering a round of drinks. 2. The safe in my hotel room. This was a typical hotel safe just about large enough to hold an ipad. On the inside of the door was the warning: “Caution: Danger of suffocation”. Even the smallest of children couldn’t have fitted into this safe. At most, it might have been possible to fit a new born baby in. The mental image was therefore created of parents with a new born baby staying in the hotel and deciding they wanted to pop downstairs for a quick gin and tonic (total cost £34.20) and wanting to leave the baby behind in the room. Being responsible parents and wanting to keep the baby out of danger they decide that the best course of action would be to place the baby in the safe and lock the door till they get back. Have lawyers and health and safety officers really reduced the country to the level where hotels need to place warning signs advising against the possible dangers of such a course of action? The ACL Conference also marked the occasion of Chairman Iain Stark passing on the baton to Murray Heining. Iain has navigated the Association through choppy waters. Murray takes over as...

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Points of Dispute

By on May 3, 2013 | 13 comments

The note on the Ministry of Justice’s website explaining the new amendments to the CPR (this note does not appear to carry any authority itself) states: “The rules relating to assessment of costs are redrawn to ensure that material presented to the court is relevant to the particular bill of costs and sets out any contentions clearly and concisely. Referral to authorities, quoting of well known judgments and explanations of and responses to individual points of dispute are discouraged.” If there was one way to guarantee this will not happen what would that be? The answer is to be found immediately below: “The process for detailed assessment in which the costs claimed are £75,000 or less is amended. The court will undertake a provisional paper assessment of the bill, and the costs of the assessment will be limited to £1,500.” If the Ministry of Justice is able to provide a list of the “well known judgments” it has in mind and confirm that all judges who will undertake provisional assessment have passed a test proving they are 100% familiar with the principles established from such judgments I might have rather more faith. My firm cannot be alone in experiences along the following lines: 1. Despite the District Judge clearly having spent some time reading the relevant guidance in the Green Book in advance of the detailed assessment hearing, it still taking two experienced law costs draftsmen the best part of half-an-hour to explain how the old proportionality test works and what the consequences for the detailed assessment hearing would be if he made a preliminary finding the costs were disproportionate. 2. A judge asking, when referred to the “well known judgment” of Wraith v Sheffield Forgemasters, what the case says on the subject of hourly rates. 3. A Regional Costs Judge not knowing the approach to take following Hollins v Russell to the recoverability of disbursements where there has been a finding that the conditional fee agreement is unenforceable. 4. A case that included a dispute concerning whether the correct documents in support of an additional liability had been served with the bill. The matter listed for half a day. The matter having to be adjourned because the District...

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Statement of Costs

By on May 2, 2013 | 12 comments

The old Costs Practice Direction 45.3 used to read: “No party should file or serve a statement of costs of the detailed assessment proceedings unless the court orders him to do so.” I can find no corresponding provision in the new rules. Presumably the normal default provision under the new Practice Direction 9.5(4) to CPR 44.6 therefore applies: “The statement of costs must be filed at court and copies of it must be served on any party against whom an order for payment of those costs is intended to be sought as soon as possible and in any event— …  (b) for all other hearings, not less than 24 hours before the time fixed for the hearing.” Having said that, the Costs Officer at the Senior Courts Costs Office I was before yesterday didn’t take any issue with the statement being produced at the end of the...

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