The Precedent T – a new Costs Management precedent, watch this space!

The CPRC have released minutes of their latest meeting.  The committee has provided further information regarding the proposals and options relating to revisions to CPR r3.15 and PD 3E, please follow this link to see our previous update.

CPR r3.15 will be re-drafted stating that revisions to budgets are made promptly rather than the initial suggestion that revisions are made without delay. There will be further amendments to practice direction 3E with the introduction of a precedent T and accompanying rules in relation to the completion of the same. The precedent T will provide much needed structure regarding the process of revising budgets and we are expecting that it will outline how to revise budgets. The intention is that these updates will feature in the October 2020 update to the rules.

Please do not hesitate to give me a call or email if you have any queries regarding revising your budget or any other cost management requirements.  More detail regarding the importance of revising the budget can be found in our previous blog here. Remember that the rules provide for incurring 2% of your budget in respect to all cost management matters which includes monitoring and revising budgets.

Sue Fox is a Senior Associate and the Head of the Costs Management team in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3389, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

COVID 19 update: face to face hearings

HMCTS are consolidating the work of the courts and tribunals into fewer buildings. It has been announced that from Monday 30 March 2020 there will be a network of priority courts that will remain open during the coronavirus pandemic to make sure the justice system continues to operate effectively.

Fewer than half of all court and tribunal buildings will remain open for physical hearings, with 157 priority court and tribunal buildings remaining open for essential face-to-face hearings. This represents 42% of the 370 crown, magistrates, county and family courts and tribunals across England and Wales.

To help maintain a core justice system that is focused on the most essential cases there will be open courts, staffed courts and suspended courts.

The Judiciary recommend that you check which courts are open before you travel.  For information regarding the category of each court please follow this link.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland has said that it is vital that we keep our courts running. and that:

An extraordinary amount of hard work has gone into keeping our justice system functioning. Technology is being used creatively to ensure that many cases can continue. Not everything can be dealt with remotely and so we need to maintain functioning courts.

These temporary adjustments to how we use the court estate will help ensure that we can continue to deal with work appropriately in all jurisdictions whilst safeguarding the well-being of all those who work in and visit the courts”.

Staffed courts will support video and telephone hearings and progress cases without hearings and ensure continued access to justice.

The remaining courts and tribunals will close temporarily and these measures will be kept in place for as long as necessary.

Sue Fox is a Senior Associate and the Head of the Costs Management team in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3389, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Edition

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Edition

The Costs and Litigation Funding Team would like to assure you that during the current ongoing measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, whilst we work remotely, it is business as usual at Clarion. We are able to continue to provide our full costs service to you.  The whole team (25 of us now) are well equipped to work from home and will have full access to email and paper/electronic files, as normal. Everyone will also be accessible by telephone. Our contact details can be found here.

The Court’s announcements

1. The Lord Chief Justice announced on the 18 March 2020 that telephone and video hearings are now the default position during the coronavirus outbreak and has provided guidance here.

2. Lord Chief Justice announced on the 17 March 2020 that:

“The latest guidance from government on how to respond to COVID-19 will clearly have an impact on the operation of all courts in every jurisdiction. It is not realistic to suppose that it will be business as usual in any jurisdiction, but it is of vital importance that the administration of justice does not grind to a halt.

We continue to work closely with others in the justice system, including the Ministry of Justice and HMCTS, to work through the implications of the developing medical position for the operation of the courts.

Given the rapidly evolving situation, there is an urgent need to increase the use of telephone and video technology immediately to hold remote hearings where possible. Emergency legislation is being drafted which is likely to contain clauses that expand the powers in criminal courts to use technology in a wider range of hearings. The Civil Procedure Rules and Family Procedure Rules provide for considerable flexibility.

Our immediate aim is to maintain a service to the public, ensure as many hearings in all jurisdictions can proceed and continue to deal with all urgent matters.

In all things Judicial Office Holders are advised to liaise with leadership judges and HMCTS.”

3. Liverpool County Court has released advice to litigants that most trials and hearings will remain listed, however designated civil HHJ Judge Wood QC has agreed that “any fast track or multi track trial can be removed from the list to be relisted after 1st June 2020 at the request of any party”. This does not require a consent order or application with fee. Whilst a brief explanation of the reason is necessary, the court will not require medical evidence nor will any request be refused simply because a party wants the matter to proceed. The Court expects trials to proceed only where all parties and witnesses are content for them to do so.

There have been instances where hearings in the Business and Property Courts have been adjourned, for example one hearing has been adjourned for “two months”, with a date TBC. The Judge rescheduled it out of his own initiative as a precaution.

We recommend that you check with the court if you have a trial or hearing listed within the next three months and what their current policy is.

Signatures 

CPR 5.3 provides that “Where any of these Rules or any Practice Direction requires a document to be signed, that requirement shall be satisfied if the signature is printed by computer or other mechanical means”. For users of Adobe, documents can be signed by selecting “Fill and Sign” in the bar at the right of the screen then selecting “Sign” at the top of the Screen. This will allow you to add a picture to use as a signature; this could be a scanned version of your signature, or a photo taken on your phone.

Please follow this link (page 2 of the pdf) to find more guidance to assist with this.

Service

The rules for service and limitation are currently unchanged. However, parties may extend dates for compliance with Rules, and limitation amnesties, and it is likely that Courts will allow applications for extensions. Parties should bear this in mind before rejecting requests for extension out of hand. Also, the usual rules for electronic service apply, however it is likely that Courts will look favourably on applications to serve electronically and therefore parties should be sensible about accepting service electronically and only refuse if there is a genuine reason why service by electronic means cannot be accepted. At present, the Courts only accept email filing up to 10 pages, however it may be possible to arrange electronic filing with courts and practitioners should check with individual courts as many have already implemented alternative processes.

For large files, parties can agree to file and serve by other electronic means, for example using Dropbox or any other secure file-sharing software. If service is anticipated over the next three months, it would be wise to put procedures in place now, and to agree them with opponents, to enable the smooth progress of cases.

The Precedent T – a new Costs Management precedent, watch this space!

The CPRC have released minutes of their latest meeting.  The committee had been asked to consider proposals and options relating to revisions to CPR r3.15 and PD 3E.

Discussions centred around whether the no retrospective costs budgeting rule applies and how it works within the budget variation. It was mooted that a rule change which sets out the factors that the court should take into account may be appropriate.  Proposals were also made regarding a new draft precedent T (in excel format), its intention being to set out the particulars of the proposed budget variation.

It was recognised that there were varying practices currently in play when applying to revise a budget, and  because of that it was proposed that a solution would be to codify the procedure. 

The committee remained alive to the fact that any rule change should not open up parties to attempt to budget repair. More detail regarding the importance of revising the budget can be found in our previous blog here.

The subjective topic of what is a ‘”significant development” was discussed. Currently PD3E paragraph 7.6 provides that budget variations are warranted if a significant development occurs. It was considered critical that the significant development was explained early in the process to avoid any attempt to budget repair.

The committee agreed the Precedent T in principle. It was agreed to re-draft their proposals which cater for ‘retrospective costs budgeting’. We should also see some further guidance which will add clarity between ‘budget variations’ and ‘ood reason to depart from the budget’.

Sue Fox is a Senior Associate and the Head of the Costs Management team in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3389, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

Estimating your legal costs – Why?

Not only is it prudent and good practice, but it is essential that clients are regularly provided with estimates of their potential legal costs and are appraised in that regard.

The SRA require lawyers to provide their clients with the best possible information regarding the cost of the matter. This should be provided at the outset and reviewed and updated as and when necessary. Estimates of costs up to a particular stage are inadequate to meet the SRA requirements, an estimate of costs up to the conclusion of the claim is required.

The SRA requires lawyers at the outset to analyse whether pursuing the claim is commercially viable. Does the outcome justify the risk of having to pay someone else’s fees? So, an explanation needs to be given to the client of the likely costs of the claim, to include both party’s costs and whether the claim is worth pursuing in view of that. This should be reviewed throughout the lifetime of the claim and updated if appropriate. The reasoning is that the client should be able to make a fully informed decision when deciding to pursue litigation, a partial estimate does not allow this.

This is good practice in any event as it ensures that your client’s expectations are managed and will lead to no surprises. This transparency can lead to less disputes regarding the level of fees and the avoidance of any complaints in law firms which centre around fees.

The type or complexity of the claim will really depend on how sophisticated the estimate will need to be, however scoping the work properly will alleviate any scope creep.

Moreover, preparing an estimate of how much you consider that the claim will cost will assist regarding your approach, a more informed decision can be made regarding this. Providing this information does show confidence in pricing and in any event this more sophisticated pricing is being seen in the marketplace.

In the event of scope creep, a detailed estimate can assist and justify those further costs that are associated with the additional work. It is wise to keep your client informed if any of the out of scope work is not recoverable from the otherside, failure to do so may put you at risk regarding those additional costs.

In addition to identifying out of scope work, it is sensible to monitor your estimate and advise the client if the estimate is subject to change. If a detailed estimate has been provided at the outset it will be much easier to explain why the estimate requires increasing.

The draconian sanctions and restrictions surrounding budgets do not apply to estimates, the estimates are used as a yardstick to measure reasonableness. It is not intended to be straight jacket, that said, they do need to be prepared with care because if the client can show reliance and the matter proceeds to solicitor and own client assessment then your costs are at risk of a reduction as a result of that reliance.

Sue Fox is a Senior Associate and the Head of Costs Management in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3389, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622

 

The latest Precedent H guidance notes

The precedent H guidance notes have never aligned with the precedent S guidance notes (Phases and Tasks Reference and Lookup table in Precedent S (bill of costs)) until the update to the precedent H guidance notes which was made last month, this update has addressed some of those discrepancies.

Please find below the amendments that have been made to the guidance notes:

Pre-action: The precedent H guidance notes states that settlement discussions, advising on settlement and Part 36 offers before proceedings were issued are to be included in the Preaction phase. However, in the Precedent S guidance these discussions are included in the ADR/Settlement phase (task “Other Settlement Matters”) . The precedent H guidance notes must be followed therefore any preaction settlement discussions should be included in the preaction phase. 

Issue/statements of case: The precedent H guidance notes have been amended to include “amendments to statements of case” in this phase, the previous guidance stated that these should be excluded from this phase. This amendment has resulted in alignment with the Precedent S guidance. 

CMC: The precedent H guidance notes have been amended to include any further CMCs that have been built into the proposed directions order whereas previously the notes stated that any additional CMCs were not to be included in this phase. The position remains regarding any estimated CMCs that have not been proposed in the directions order, these are to be included as a contingent cost. Any disclosure work, i.e. list of disclosure issues, EDQ  should be included in the disclosure phase.  

Budget – The costs in relation to this phase includes inconsistencies which present numerous difficulties. The Precedent H Guidance Notes includes “correspondence with opponent to agree directions and budgets, where possible”, and “preparation for, and attendance at, the CMC”. The same applies in relation to the PTR phase, which includes “preparation of updated costs budgets and reviewing opponent’s budget”, “correspondence with opponent to agree directions and costs budgets, if possible” and “preparation for and attendance at the PTR”. While the precedent H guidance note specifically excludes preparation of the costs budget for the first CMC, it doesn’t specifically exclude preparation of Precedent R. The Precedent S description of this task is “work on budgeting between the parties following initial completion of the first budget, including the monitoring of costs incurred against the budget and any applications for variation of the budget” –  it doesn’t mention the drafting of Precedent R and seems to relate to work post CMC.

Furthermore, in para 7.2 of PD3E the 2% cap relates to all recoverable costs of the budgeting and costs management process other than the recoverable costs of initially completing the Precedent H. If some costs budgeting items are included in the CMC and PTR phases (i.e. following the Precedent H Guidance Note), practically how is the 2% figure on the front page of Precedent H calculated? Should it include the budgeting items which appear in the CMC and PTR phases of Precedent H, or is it exclusive of them? And, what exactly is meant by “budget process” in relation to this 2% cap?

Unfortunately there is no guidance regarding the budget process or “associated material” that is referred to in the guidance notes – does this include composite summaries, breakdowns of costs?

One solution for this phase is to time record in line with the precedent S guidance notes and then when it comes to preparing the budget assess what aspects of the % cap belongs in the CCMC stage. If the time is recorded as CCMC it is a more onerous task to ascertain what element of the CCMC phase is relevant to the % cap.

Trial: The guidance note has been amended to now include counsel’s brief fee in the trial preparation phase rather than the trial phase. 

Settlement phase: The precedent H guidance note previously excluded mediation from this phase, this has now been amended to include mediation. 

Definition of budgeted and incurred costs – CPR 3.15 and PD 3E para 7.4 Incurred costs are now all costs incurred up to and including the date of the first costs management order, unless otherwise ordered. Budgeted costs are all costs to be incurred after the date of the first costs management order.

Sue Fox is a Senior Associate and the Head of Costs Management in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com and 0113 336 3389, or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.