Nothing above London 1 guideline hourly rates should be charged to the paying party in the absence of “clear and compelling justification” was the message from LJ Males in his judgment on an issue concerning costs of appeal in Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd v LG Display Co. Ltd Anor (Costs) .
The receiving party, whose solicitors billed in US Dollars, claimed costs equivalent to charges between £801 and £1,131 for Grade A work and between £443 and £704 for Grade C work. A comparison was made to London 1 guideline rates at £512 and £270 for A and C respectively, and the fact the White Book guides applicability of these rates to “very heavy commercial and corporate work by centrally based London firms”.
Consideration was given to the fact that hourly rates higher than guideline figures may be appropriate for substantial and complex litigation, and that value, urgency, the importance of the matter or an international element may all have a bearing on whether an uplift is justified. LJ Males also reflected on how:
“it is important to have in mind that the guideline rates for London 1 already assume that the litigation in question qualifies as “very heavy commercial work“.”
The receiving party was criticised for attempting to justify the higher rates on the basis this was almost always the case in competition litigation.
“It is not enough to say that the case is a commercial case, or a competition case, or that it has an international element, unless there is something about these factors in the case in question which justifies exceeding the guideline rate.”
“There is nothing in the present appeal to justify doing so. This was a one-day appeal, where the only issue was the appropriate forum for the trial, the documentation was not heavy, and the amount claimed (£900,000) was modest by the standards of commercial cases.”
The delegation of work to juniors and a single junior barrister was however noted as appropriate, but the schedule claiming costs of £72,818 was still reduced to £55,000.
Planning a full and detailed justification, explaining why an uplifted hourly rate is reasonable in a particular matter, is the key to good recovery.