Yirenki v Ministry of Defence [2018] 11 WLUK 53 – Are hourly rates a good reason to depart from the budget?

When budgeting cases, the Civil Procedures Rules (CPR) under Practice Direction (PD) 3E para.7.3 provides that, when the Court is approving figures, the approval should “only relate to the total figures for budgeted costs of each phase”.

In this claim, upon costs management, the Judge approved both a number of hours for each phase, as well as individual disbursements in the budget. This approach is clearly contrary to the CPR. Parties often reserve the position in relation to their incurred costs, and the hourly rates on the incurred costs, to be dealt with at detailed assessment. Interestingly, Master Davison reserved the issue of the hourly rates for the future costs to also be dealt with at detailed assessment.

Reduction to the hourly rates

Now, we know from the case of Jallow v Ministry of Defence [2018] EWHC B7 (Costs) that, where there has been a reduction to the hourly rates for the incurred work, this is not a good reason to depart from the budgeted costs. Master Davison clearly differs in his opinion, given that he has reserved the position of the hourly rates specifically for the estimated costs.

This decision has since been appealed and has, not surprisingly, been allowed. It was said by Mr Justice Jacobs QC that the approach of Master Davison was contrary to the CPR. Relying on rule CPR 3.15(2)(b) specifically, he provided that the correct approach is clearly that the approved figure is meant to be a final figure, rather than a provisional one which the other side could later attempt to reduce.

Mr Justice Jacobs QC advised that the cost budgeting process is not meant to be a detailed assessment in advance and that the job of the Court is to approve a proportionate figure which can be relied on. The principle of reserving the position as to the hourly rates of the budgeted figures weakens the reliance that can be placed on the budget itself, supporting the case of Jallow v Ministry of Defence  [2018] EWHC B7 (Costs), in that hourly rates are not a good reason to depart from the budgeted figures.

 

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The new statement of costs goes live on 1 April 2019

I have further updates regarding the new statement of costs following on from our January newsletter. The pilot scheme will operate from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2021 and will apply to all claims in which costs are to be summarily assessed, whenever they were commenced. There will be two statements of costs which may be used whilst the scheme is in force; the N260A when the costs have been incurred up to an interim application and the N260B when the costs have been incurred up to trial. The N260 will be available in paper/pdf form and in electronic form. Parties are able to use the paper/pdf form only, however if they use the electronic spreadsheet form this must be filed and served in paper form and electronic means. The format has changed and the document schedule now requires the time entries to be dated. 

In cases which have been subject to a costs management order, any party filing the form N260B must also file and serve the precedent Q (which is a summary that details any overspend/underspend for each phase of the budget). Now that the court can identify overspends in the budget, will this additional layer of information result in more costs being summarily assessed and less detailed assessments? Will this assist with applications for payments on account? Will we see the N260B being used at trials that are listed for more than one day, to demonstrate that there hasn’t been any overspend in the budget and resultantly the budgeted costs being allowed in full? Possibly, but only if the incurred costs are identified separately to the estimated costs, please see my earlier blog for a more detailed analysis in that regard.

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.

 

A new year, a new statement of costs. But why stop at that? A few intended changes to Costs Management too

The CPR committee have been hard at work again coming up with solutions to the problems that have been encountered by the legal profession since the Jackson reforms nearly 6 years ago.  Following the scratching of many heads, a few of those creases have been ironed out and the following proposals have been made:

Statements of costs

A voluntary 2 year pilot scheme for the new statement of costs will be implemented, starting from 1 April 2019.

The current proposals are for two new forms of costs statements, namely N260A and N260B which may be used for summary assessment. These new forms will  include a VAT declaration and the forms will now include the signature of a legal representative, which is in line with the rules, as opposed to a company partner. The Form N260A will cross refer to the document schedule in the summary. No model forms are available yet.

Master Howarth has suggested that the precedent Q, the document that identifies whether there has been an under or overspend in a phase of a budget, is incorporated into the statement of costs. This will create transparency at the summary assessment stage regarding the amount incurred in comparison to the approved budget – supporting the need for a well drafted budget.

The committee is to give consideration to lower value cases and the relevance of statements of costs for those cases where there will never be a summary assessment, as there was concern regarding the wasted costs incurred in those instances.

Costs management

The precedent H costs budget will remain the same, but there will be some adjustments to the guidance notes to align costs budgeting with the new electronic bill approach.

There has been many a debate regarding what date the incurred costs should be included up to in the budget and there is tension in the wording of the rules in that regard. The committee have recognised this and have debated the very same problem. They have understood that differing practices appear to be in place and that overall there is value in a consistent approach. It has been advised that this issue should be resolved as part of a future review of the practice direction.

There will be some adjustments to the precedent R, however that is the only guidance that has been provided at this stage, so the amendments remain unknown for the time being.

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.

 

Voluntary capped costs pilot scheme in the Business Courts

Following on from my blog and newsletter (see below) over a year and half ago, it has now been announced that the capped costs pilot scheme will go live in January 2019 to coincide with the launch of the disclosure pilot scheme. The capped costs pilot scheme will apply to the Business and Property Courts in Leeds and Manchester (Chancery, Circuit Commercial and the Technology and Construction Court) and the London Circuit Commercial Court.

It is a voluntary scheme that will last for 2 years, with costs capped at £80,000.00.

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Blog published 20.06.17

Fixed Recoverable Costs – the pilot scheme

Following on from my newsletter below, the Civil Procedure Rule Committee meeting notes have been published today. Last month I explained how Jackson LJ had suggested how ‘capped fixed costs’ would work. The meeting notes have now confirmed how the pilot scheme will work, explaining that costs for preaction would be capped at £10,000, for particulars of claim at £7,000 and for defence and counterclaims at £7,000.

Many thanks to John Hyde of the Law Society Gazette who has reported that “Parties can claim up to £6,000 for a reply and defence to the counterclaims, £6,000 for the case management conference, £6,000 for disclosure and £8,000 for witness statements. Expert reports are capped at £10,000, with the trial and judgment costs limited to £20,000.

The working group dedicated to the pilot scheme proposes an overall cap of £80,000 rather than setting an actual fixed amount at this stage.

The proposal, backed in principle by the committee, is to run the pilot in certain specialist civil courts: the London Mercantile Court and three courts in each of the Manchester District Registry and Leeds District Registry. Any cases where the trial will go beyond two days, or where the value is more than £250,000, are excluded”.

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Clarion May 2017 Newsletter

Fixed Recoverable Costs. A taster of how the pilot scheme may work.

The judiciary have released an outline regarding how the fixed recoverable costs regime may work. Jackson LJ attended a costs seminar in Birmingham back in March 2017, which focused on mercantile and business litigation. At that seminar both Jackson LJ and HHJ Waksman outlined their proposals for the fixed costs pilot scheme, those proposals being subject to the approval of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee. The details of their proposals were as follows:

The pilot scheme will run in the London Mercantile court, and Manchester and Leeds specialist courts.

  • It is likely that the pilot will commence in October 2017 and will last for two years.
  • The pilot scheme is optional.
  • There will be a separate fixed costs list.
  • The pilot can be joined at certain stages:
    • The pre-action stage
    • No later than 14 days after service of the defence
    • At the case management conference (CMC)
    • Claimants can commence proceedings in the fixed costs list.

The Defendant has an absolute right to object to this, and if so then the proceedings would be removed from the fixed cost list.

  • The CMC will be the last opportunity to join the pilot.
  • Parties will not be able to withdraw from the pilot, apart from the Defendant if the Claimant issues in the pilot scheme (see above).
  • There will be a shortened process with strict case management .

The pilot is currently a ‘work in progress’, however it is envisaged that these proposals will be making their way to the Civil Procedure Rules Committee in June 2017, so these could be public by July 2017. It is currently predicted that:

  • Parties will be required to file their “core documents” (the documents that are relevant to the issues in the claim) with their statements of case, i.e. the particulars of claim, defence, reply and defence to counterclaim.
  • There will be no need for further disclosure, unless parties can justify this at the CMC.
  • If further disclosure is required, parties will need to apply for the same before the CMC. If the parties cannot agree, an order will be made.
  • At the CMC, the judge will suggest Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), including Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE).
  • The CMC will be the only interim hearing, this will include setting the trial timetable.
  • Consideration is being given to limiting the number of witnesses, the thoughts are that there will be one factual witness on each side.
  • Costs budgeting will not be required and there will be no pre-trial review.
  • The trial length will be up to two days (excluding judicial reading)
  • Cross-examination will be “very strictly controlled”.
  • An early hearing date will be guaranteed.
  • Judgments will be produced within a short period of time.
  • Pilot participants can expect “active and proactive” case management.
  • Costs will be summarily assessed at the end of trial.

The above proposals were made in March 2017, however since then there have been further proposals, as follows:

  • The pilot will only relate to claims that are less than £250,000.
  • The pilot will only relate to claims where the trial is no more than 2 days.
  • The pilot will only relate to non-complex matters.
  • The maximum costs that will be allowed will be £80,000. The pilot scheme will be similar to the IPEC costs regime. There will be caps for phases of litigation and those phases will be the same as the phases used in costs budgets.
  • Parties can only leave the scheme under exceptional circumstances, examples of those circumstances are; allegations of fraud, if the matter subsequently is listed for a 3 day trial.
  • Judgment will be handed down within 6 weeks.
  • The proposed ‘grid’ is not yet available and it is likely that this will not be available until the practice directions are published, so it may make its way into any July update to the rules. The main benefits of the pilot scheme are that claims will be resolved speedily and parties will be more aware of their potential costs exposure.
  • We will continue to provide updates regarding fixed costs, as well as all costs related law.

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.

Getting paid properly – Costs Estimates

Costs Estimates

Why provide an estimate of costs to your client in respect to their legal claim?

It keeps your client informed and therefore there are no surprises, this in turn manages your client’s expectation. This helps to avoid any dispute regarding the level of fees.

However, there is also the techy but important part!

Failure to provide information about costs and funding options for litigation is a breach of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct 2011 (SRA Code 2011),  your obligations are to “clearly explain your fees and if and when they are likely to change”.

Consequently, keep your estimate up to date, monitor the estimate and advise the client if the estimate requires changing – prospective thinking is the key.

The estimate must be clear and concise, must be worded in a way that is appropriate for the client and must be given in writing and regularly updated. The client should be provided with a detailed estimate, not just a ball park figure.

A solicitor is required to undertake a cost benefit analysis. The Code’s requirement in Rule 2.03 (6) is that “a solicitor discusses with their client whether the likely outcome in a matter will justify the expense or risk involved, including, if relevant, the risk of having to bear an opponent’s costs”.

It is essential that the cost-benefit analysis must be kept under review throughout the matter and reviewed with the client at key stages.

What is the impact of not providing an estimate?

Your client may argue that they would have given different instructions/or not proceeded with the matter if they had known: how expensive the claim would be, the length of time it would take, the level of their legal costs that would be recoverable from the other side and also their liability for the other side’s costs.

What if the client asks you to undertake out of scope work?

Explain that the estimate does not cover the additional work and provide a further estimate of the additional work. Advise the client if there is any risk that this work may not be deemed recoverable from the other-side. Failure to do so may result in those additional costs being disallowed.

Is a solicitor bound by their estimate?

Sort of!

If the client requests an assessment of their costs in accordance with the Solicitors Act, the estimate may be used as a “yardstick to measure reasonableness”. Any estimates that have been exceeded because they are simply wrong will be taken into account, together with the circumstances surrounding it, i.e. the reliance the client placed on the estimate and costs reduced accordingly.

Always provide a realistic estimate

Keep your estimate realistic at the outset. Even regular updating might not subsequently save a bad original estimate. The court’s view is that the first estimate is a critical piece of information for a client’s decision whether or not to embark on the action.

The Code’s requirements are for “best” information to be provided about costs. Therefore providing low estimates are unlikely to comply with the SRA Code of Conduct.

IN SUMMARY

Always provide a detailed estimate of costs.

Prepare a realistic estimate of costs.

Monitor the estimate and revisit with client throughout – costs/benefit analysis.

Identify and advise regarding out of scope work.

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.

 

Case Management Refresher

Cost estimates are necessary for fast track claims when the fixed costs regime is not applicable and for non-budgeted cases

In accordance with CPR 28 PD6.1 (4), a cost estimate is required to be filed and served at the same time as the pre-trial check list.  It is stated on the pre-trial checklist (N170) that ‘for legal representatives only: a cost estimate to be filed and served at the same time as the pre-trial check list is filed‘.  Therefore, for all fast track claims where there is not a fixed costs regime in place then a costs estimates should be filed. Furthermore, for non-budgeted multitrack claims a costs estimate should be filed.  What is particularly interesting is that this captures those claims that are not automatically included in the costs management regime, e.g. claims over £10m.

Case management conferences and indemnity basis costs

In accordance with CPR 26 PD 6.6, the court can impose a costs sanction where a party has failed to file a directions questionnaire or failed to provide further information which the court has ordered.  The court will usually order a party to pay on the indemnity basis the costs of any other party who has attended the hearing, summarily assess the amount of those costs, and order them to be paid forthwith or within a stated period.

Disposal hearings

In accordance with CPR 26 PD 12.5(2), Section VI of Part 45 (fast track trial costs) will not apply to a case dealt with at a disposal hearing whatever the financial value of the claim. So, the costs of a disposal hearing will be in the discretion of the court.

Any questions? Please contact Sue at sue.fox@clarionsolicitors.com or call  on 0113 336 3389