A Bill or Statement of Costs must be signed. This requirement is contained at CPR 47 PD 5.21 in the case of a bill, or CPR 44 PD 9.5(3) for a statement. But one question which is often asked is who may sign a bill? The certificates on the precedents refer to a “Partner”, but is a partner in fact required to sign?
CPR 44 PD 1.1 states that“…in respect of any document which is required by Practice Directions 44 to 47 to be signed by a party or that party’s legal representative, the provisions of Practice Direction 22 relating to who may sign apply as if the document in question was a statement of truth. Statements of truth are not required in assessment proceedings unless a rule or Practice Direction so requires or the court so orders.”
Statements of Costs
CPR 22 PD 3.1 states “in a statement of case… the statement of truth must be signed by (1) the party or his litigation friend; or (2) the legal representative of the party…” A legal representative is defined at CPR 2.3 as “(a) a barrister; (b) solicitor; or (c) a solicitor’s employee”.
CPR 44 PD 9.5(3) states that “the statement of costs… must be signed by the party or the party’s legal representative”. This falls within CPR 44 PD 1.1 and CPR 22 PD 3.1 as above, and therefore a statement of costs may be signed by the party’s “legal representative” as defined above. A statement of costs therefore does not need to be signed by a Partner. Indeed, according to the Rules the statement of costs could in theory be a trainee or even a secretary.
Bills of Costs
The position is not so clear for a bill of costs: CPR 47 and the associated practice direction does not contain any rule that the bill of costs must be signed by the party or the party’s legal representative. Rather, CPR 47 PD 5.21 states that the bill must “…contain such of the certificates [annexed to the practice direction] as are appropriate”.
The certificates to be included can be found here and state “all certificates must be signed by the receiving party or by his solicitor”. However, it is not clear that a precedent document can, of itself, impose any obligation on a party as it is supplementary to but does not form a part of the rules.
In Bailey -v- IBC Vehicles  EWCA Civ 566 it was held that “the signature on of the bill… is effectively the certificate by an officer of the Court that the receiving party’s solicitors are not seeking to recover in relation to any item more than they have agreed to charge…”
By analogy, CPR 3.13(5) states that a costs budget must be verified by a statement of truth “signed by a senior legal representative” of the party, and it was held in Americhem Europe Ltd -v- Rakem Ltd  EWHC 1881 that a legal representative is someone who “is representing in a legal capacity” and that a costs draftsman, who simply prepares the bill, is not. This authority therefore suggests that the individual should be directly engaged in or at least have capacity to carry out a reserved activity (i.e. an activity which is reserved under the Legal Services Act 2007) rather than an activity ancillary to a reserved activity. In other words, the test is whether the individual is entitled to carry out the reserved activity to which the bill related, such as litigation.
Furthermore section 69(2A) of the Solicitors Act 1974 provides that a solicitor’s bill to his client must be signed “by the solicitor or on his behalf by an employee of the solicitor authorised by him to sign”. This raises the question as to whether a bill certificate may be signed by an employee of a solicitor but that the “buck stops” with the solicitor – i.e. any employee may sign but if it is wrong the solicitor is responsible. This was the finding in Gempride -v- Bambrah  EWCA Civ 1367 in which the solicitor had signed a bill which was wrong. She subsequently argued that she had relied on the costs draftsman that it was accurate; the Court held that whilst it may have been drafted by others she was ultimately responsible for the content.
In the opinion of the author, a bill of costs does not need to be signed by a partner but must be signed by a solicitor and not a “legal representative”. It is possible that a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (being entitled to carry out reserved activities) might also be entitled to sign.
There is no requirement that a bill or statement of costs must be signed by a partner. Whilst it is theoretically arguable that any employee of a solicitor may sign a statement or bill of costs (1) the solicitor will ultimately be liable even if the document is signed on their behalf, and (2) it would in almost all cases be needlessly risky to do so as it could give rise to significant argument about whether the document had been properly certified. Therefore in general, bills and statements should be signed by a solicitor.
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