Legal Cost Specialists

Signature to a Bill of Costs

In Mansion Estates Ltd -v- Hayre & Co (A Firm) [2016] EWHC 96 (Ch) His Honour Judge Saffman commented:

“in my view it would be wrong to assume that it is inherently more improbable that a professional person will be dishonest than anyone else. If ever such a view validly had traction, I do not think it can do so in the modern world.”

Although not a decision relating to costs, this must have equal applicability to the signature of accuracy to a bill of costs. There may once have been a stage when “the Court can (and should unless there is evidence to the contrary) assume that his signature to the bill of costs shows that the indemnity principle has not been offended” (Bailey v IBC Vehicles Ltd [1998] EWCA Civ 566) but the world has now moved on from such innocent days.

9 thoughts on “Signature to a Bill of Costs”

  1. Quite so. We no longer have either principles or morals, but only ‘values’ and those are, it seems, to be set by the government, which is presumably the source of all virtue.

  2. Do you really think solicitors risk their practising certificates? If they do then they don’t work for any firm that I have been involved with in over 25+ years in the profession

  3. @aninamouse – Yes, because the SRA and Solicitor’s Disciplinary Tribunal have never, ever had to investigate anything or fine, strike off or otherwise chastise a solicitor. Get off your imaginary pedestal.

  4. @ anonamouse

    Clearly you have worked for some reputable firms.

    It is quite easy for inaccuracies to be signed when you have a bunch of unqualified and new to costs Draftsman preparing Bills, and a sole Solicitor signing 5 or 6 every day as well as running a case load.

    I have seen in the past some very dubious ‘mistakes’, which may have simply slipped through the net, or may be a try-on based on an ‘honest’ mistake.

    Put simply, some firms place great reliance on Draftsman with little to no knowledge of what costs are recoverable, and no expertise to spot potential errors or issues with cases.

  5. Anonymous for obvious reasons

    I have worked for a firm of Solicitors for over 15 years. Our Bills are signed without being looked at, despite time being claimed within the Bill for checking by a senior solicitor. I never check for a retainer and I would eat my hat if anyone else here did. Our case handling system ensures that in 99.9% of cases a valid retainer letter is sent out at the outset, but I can recall at least one case where this did not occur. Did we waive our costs? No we didn’t.

    One of my wife’s friends recently went through a divorce. She agreed a fixed fee for the whole thing. At the end she received a bill for the fixed fee, plus the full standard basis costs. I only happened to see this because all the divorce paperwork came to our house. I advised her to query it. A Partner wrote back to her saying it was all in order, pay up. I drafted a letter for her to send to the firm, setting out the exact same query but in more “lawyerly” terms so that it was obvious that they had been rumbled by someone who knew what they were talking about. They wrote back saying she (I) was quite right and waiving the whole of the standard costs, over £1000 with VAT. Do I think this firm does this all the time, and gets away with it because lay clients don’t understand what’s going on and don’t have a neighbourly lawyer to check for them? Yes I do.

    Always ask to see the retainer.

  6. I don’t follow your logic.

    Are you suggesting that in the more innocent days if a solicitor and the “man on the Clapham omnibus” were asked to sign a document as true, the solicitor would have been less likely to sign it dishonestly? I don’t believe the court ever suggested that solicitors are less inclined towards dishonesty, but instead that they have a duty to the court of which they are consciously aware that the said man either didn’t have or was not aware of.

    Nor do I think it can be stated that at some point between 1998 and 2016 the propensity for truth telling has differed so that either the solicitor has become more likely to be dishonest or the man has become more likely to be honest.

    Even if there had been that shift from honesty toward a propensity toward less honesty, I do not see how it could alter the logic that a signed document is presumed to be true until shown otherwise, regardless of who it was signed by.

  7. Hmmmm, I remember the old C.F.A challenges, in particular the accident group stuff, almost every pleading/statement would contain non truths or angles to cover up the fact that it was a crass money making scheme that often left claimants with little or no damages and/or a a bailiff turning up at the door.

    Lets not pretend eh peeps or i’ll start naming people

  8. I worked for a PI firm approx. 3 years ago where the managing partner and “head of costs” (who didn’t have any legal/costs qualifications btw) tell costs fee earners to increase bills (whether the time could be demonstrated on the file or not) as they wanted to earn over a set figure per file. Any bill drafted that came below that figure was sent back to be redrafted. Bills weren’t properly checked, just a “are you sure this is right?” to the draftsman and then signed… so yes, we should go behind the certificate, full files should be made available to the court, but then again, said firm was also known to manufacture file/attendance notes etc…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top