Legal Cost Specialists

The future of litigation

Extract from Narrative to bill of costs:

“Computer technology was utilised wherever possible. … The Claimants’ solicitors have tried to use novel and efficient ways of dealing with the claim. Wherever possible standard documents have been prepared including questionnaires and in some cases, standard letters. Meetings with the individual Claimants have been minimised. Pro-active use of Part 36 offers and proposed schemes of settlement were intended to enable claims to be resolved in a cost effective and efficient manner”

“Novel”? Computer technology, questionnaires and standard letters?

Welcome to the Twentieth Century.

The “novel” element is also wearing a bit thin given this same standard wording is included in all bills prepared by these costs draftsmen for this firm of solicitors.

14 thoughts on “The future of litigation”

  1. and your standard cut-and-paste objection, to this cut and paste narrative, begins;-

    it is clear from the bill narrative, that the actual time spent on any endeavour by the fee earner concerned, is likely to be minimal, as the use of technology and standard letters and documents, represents in real time little ACTUAL fee earner time, and thus the Court must show great caution in awarding the fee earner anything greater than even a single unit for any time claimed

  2. there’s a certain firm that , has been obliged to withdraw Assessments on a number of their cases, where they were forced to admit their file didn’t contain any notes and their WIP simply put down standard times that didn’t reflect actual time…….
    seems they weren’t quite the great Persuaders they thought they were

  3. The only novel aspect appears to be the open admission that things like printing off forms of authority, questionnaires, ‘herewith’ letters to the Court, don’t actually take any longer than the time it takes for a secretary or assistant to press a button.

  4. Charles Wheatcroft

    I recall speaking to an accountant about cut and paste letters. She said that time spent preparing a detailed technical advice which was largely generic could be charged at full preparation time every time it was sent to a client.

    I said that you could only charge once and if you reused it that would benefit other clients. She persevered and said that the firm should be rewarded for ‘research and development’.

    With standard letters money can be made on routine communications. If you can rattle off 10 routine letters in two minutes of dictation you can take full advantage of the de minimus 6 minute unit.

    Bizzarely, for a solicitor who is inefficient and who uses no standard letters they can re-dictate the same letters over and over again at full cost without incurring any penalty.

    Getting back to the quoted narrative does “The Claimants’ solicitors have tried to use novel and efficient ways…” mean that these ways have succeeded or failed?

  5. @CW

    as we all know, a solicitor is expected to know the Law and doesn’t ordinarily charge for “research and development”, hence I would welcome anyone opposing me in Court using that particular argument .

    the fact remains, and as the CJC current work on Hourly Rates will currently no doubt take account of, the unit charge is supposed to represent the average time which a fee earner actually spends on an endeavour – thus if they are in fact spending a matter of seconds pressing a button, they will not get even a single unit

  6. Charles Wheatcroft

    Anonymous on November 13th, 2013 4:46 pm

    To be clear, I do not believe in the R&D argument. Once a task is carried out you can charge for it but if you re-use the document you cannot charge as though you have spent the same time again. You could make it part of a fixed price package and sell it that way but if you are charging by the hour you cannot pretend the work took the same time again.

    In the case of routine communications it would be difficult to make a case that each letter prepared was not worth the de minimus unit. This would penalise an efficient lawyer and reward a disorganised lawyer who would dictate the same words over and over.

    I do agree that if you can press a button to produce a load of letters without any further input, these letters cannot be ‘of substance’ but my example suggested that there was more to it. Applying thought to the process of setting up standard documents with a case management system can reap dividends but most people don’t go to the trouble of setting up the system properly as there is a huge investment of time at the outset.

    The efficient lawyer makes a larger profit margin by being efficient. If you are suggesting that that is incorrect surely the use of email, word processing, spreadsheets etc should have lowered the hourly rates over time as tasks are exponentially more efficient that they were 25 years ago.

    Or perhaps lawyers are having to be more efficient as the profit margins are constantly being squeezed by higher indemnity premiums, stationery costs and administration/compliance with professional standards?

    Once again, getting back to the quote – I would love to know what is meant by “Pro-active use of Part 36 offers” – as opposed to what?

  7. solicitor are actually expected to know only the routine law that giverns their sector – they are not walking fountains of knowledge

    Law evolves and some aspects are novel

    Equally considering quantum case law against the facts and evidence is entirely reasonable and recoverable

    I get tired of the blanket objection along the lines of “this is research – they should know the law”

  8. @CW

    I did not suggest you endorsed the argument – apologies if my comment implied that

    regarding the comments about efficiency and single unit charging. A solicitor identifies 10 potential witnesses in a case. he draws 1 generic letter, and his secretary then sends it to all 10, simply changing the title and address. Solicitors time is 6 minutes. do you allow him to charge 1 hour?

    now apply that to generic letters produced by a CMS. the “set-up” cost is part of the firms investment i.e. overheads, and generally results in staff efficiencies, thus is qualified already in the hourly rate (hence my comment about the CJC looking at this now). The file set-up cost is undertaken by (usually) unqualified “trainees” whom input the data – the CMS then does the rest, as is its design.

    a solicitor now has a system pre-set, and the workflow is self controlled, so linked actions self generate not only letters without the solicitor spending any time on them, but usually self-generate time records as standard (and not reflecting the ACTUAL time spent). You suggest there it is nevertheless appropriate to allow the solicitor to charge as time activity, for time he is NOT actually spending? take it to the extreme, a solicitor so does, and sends his bill to the client – is he not creating an offence by charging for something he hasn’t done?

    efficiency I applaud. we do reward the “average”, not the efficient or tardy. time charging where the time is not actually spent, remains wrong, however, and should be taken into account when the Rates are considered; and when bills are presented purporting to represent time actually spent, when it was not.

  9. Seem to recall a certain drafting firm in the ’80s inserting the words for the narrative ” the learned taxing officer is referred to the file for what took place”

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