Law costs draftsmen are facing a difficult future. Lord Justice Fitzgibbons’s Review of Civil Litigation Costs recommended the greatest shake-up to the English legal costs system ever seen. At a single stage it looked as if his recommendations might not be implemented. It is right now clear, through a mixture of government and judicial initiatives, that most, if not every, will be.
For the typical law costs draftsman or costs lawyer the actual proposal for fixed charges for all stages in personal injury fast track statements is the most significant. This would remove the bread-and-butter work for many those working in the field and wipe-out the volume legal costs negotiators.
The offer to end recovery of success fees as well as ATE premiums between the actual parties will not possess a direct impact on the type of the work undertaken by law costs draftsmen but is likely to have two indirect outcomes. Claimant lawyers argue this proposal will reduce the number of promises they take on. Should this happen there will be a smaller amount legal costs work available as a result of the drop in claim numbers. Secondly, it has been the amounts at stake as a result from the recoverability of success charges and ATE premiums which includes done much to increase the importance of legal costs in litigation and generate the requirement for specialist law costs draftsmen and costs lawyers. Once additional liabilities are taken off legal costs claims, lawyers and insurers may feel convenient negotiating costs themselves in these cases and no longer feel the need to involve experts.
ackson LJ wants brand new software developed that will enable schedules of charges and bills of expenses to be generated automatically. The original job of a law costs draftsmen, drafting bills of costs (as the name implies), is to end. It is envisaged that there will be much more description as to the nature of the work undertaken and why the job was necessary. However, that is likely to be done by the actual fee earner as the situation progresses, via case management software, or by the particular fee earner at the conclusion of the claim.
Master Justice Jackson wants to end lengthy points of dispute and replies which generate a large proportion of the work undertaken in the legal costs world.
A probationary detailed assessment pilot is about to be launched for bills with base costs regarding up to 25,000 pounds. Although the existing pilot scheme appears to leave much to be desired, the long term is clearly envisaged to need much less in the way of advocacy from the average solcitiors costs (or specialist costs advice come to that).
The recommendation regarding qualified one-way charges shifting would remove the need for defendant bills of costs in most cases where a defendant wins on liability. It would mean an end to the need for defeated claimants to challenge such costs. Once again, less work for legal costs professionals.