Legal Cost Specialists

Costs Lawyers' Annual Conference

The Association of Costs Lawyers held their Annual Conference last Friday/Saturday and it proved to be another excellent event.

However, I do sometimes wonder whether I was listening to the same talks as everyone else.

A long list of speakers commented on the rosy future for Costs Lawyers.

Topics covered included progress with the new bill of costs format and Mr Justice Ramsey hoping this would be introduced later this year.

This is implementation of Lord Justice Jackson’s proposal, in his Final Report, that:

“In my view, modern technology provides the solution. Time recording systems must capture relevant information as work proceeds. The bill format must be compatible with existing time recording systems, so that at any given point in a piece of litigation a bill of costs can be generated automatically [my emphasis]. Such a bill of costs must contain the necessary explanatory material, which is currently lacking from the bills prepared for detailed assessment. Crucially, the costs software must be capable of presenting the bill at different levels of generality. This will enable the solicitor to provide either (a) a user-friendly synopsis or (b) a detailed bill with all the information and explanation needed for a detailed assessment [my emphasis] or (c) an intermediate document somewhere between (a) and (b). The software must provide for work which is not chargeable or work which is written off to be allocated to a separate file.”

Although it is clear this cannot actually be totally automated, it is equally clear that this will reduce bill drafting time by 70-80%.

Dominic Regan reminded us that Lord Justice Jackson has recently mooted the possibility of fixed fees for cases with a value of up to £250,000.

Then there were the comments that we are moving away entirely from an hourly rate approach to legal fees and there was no future for hourly rates.

Of course, none of this may happen in our lifetimes. Just look at the Jackson Report that was kicked into the long grass and is quietly gathering dust somewhere long forgotten. But if even half does…

8 thoughts on “Costs Lawyers' Annual Conference”

  1. Truly Eminent Costs Professional

    Was the conference sponsored or controlled by omnia costs software by any chance?

  2. If they were turkey’s they’d be voting for Christmas
    I wonder however when the ACL will start to advise potential students,they have advocated processes which will wipe out 95% of work suitable for students?

  3. The Office Cat

    I can remember when the CPR was coming about and there was talk by these visionary types of cashpoint type machines dispensing legal advice thus reducing the need of solicitors.

    The problem here is that it does not prevent the level of work needed to prepare a bill; it is just done through the life of the case rather than the end. This will result in more work for the fee earner to undertake in the working day, which will consequently either increase rates or they become chargeable items E.G. ‘consider file note, check orders made and ascertain whether potential inter partes item, assign relevant code’

    Also, at the end of it, the fee earner will have to go through the file notes in detail and detract any confidential items as well prior the automatic bill being printed. Therefore, in reality it would take longer and cost more than a CD going through it at the end of case as a Grade D.

    Where do these people come?

  4. Truly Eminent Costs Professional

    I agree office cat.

    Still its a nice gimmick which sounds perfect to those who do not prepare bills.

    The only value of this system will be the apportioning of costs for budget purposes so that it is easier to see what the spend is on each budgeted section.

    However on the flip side, and tactically, it would be better to go through these entries retrospectively in view of any potential costs management orders, when apportioning the costs may be necessary in terms of recovery.

  5. The proposed automated future has a massive hurdle to overcome which in my view will be the reason why it will never ultimately come to being. Data-capture. The ‘system’ is only as good as the data that is inputted to it, and automation would only work if every timeline entered by every solicitor nation-wide was 100% accurate. That is something I do not believe will happen, ‘j-codes’ or otherwise

  6. There’s been a nasty rumour, that certain firms instruct their draftsmen to “maximise their WIP”; and that very often this is why final bills, bear little relation to the amount put forward in, say costs statements served with Directions Questionnaires.

    Whereas it is mere rumour and speculation, I wonder how if so certain firms are going to take to having to use automated billing systems, where their WIP IS the start point?

    Also makes me wonder if Defendant firms are going to subscribe to the new proposals??

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