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28 August 2018

The new bill of costs – at what cost?

Posted by: Michael Fletcher

If, as we are told, a new form of electronic bill of costs is inevitable to facilitate costs claims between the parties; to what extent will this impose another layer of cost on the profession at this time of unprecedented change? At a time when civil litigation is still undergoing radical overhaul, and has been for the recent past, the proposed new bill will add uncertainty and cost to practitioners. Specialist costs drafting software providers are undoubtedly watching matters closely, bearing in mind the proposed October 2017 mandatory deadline. The cost to the software providers is one thing, but what of the training and supervision time in getting used to the new document, which will lead to lost fee earning time in practices up and down the country at a significant, and some may say, disproportionate cost. In practice, I wonder whether it will make any difference to the efficiency of a detailed assessment hearing. Seasoned practitioners will have a preferred and personal method of calculating the assessed bill at Court in relatively prompt time. Inputting data into an excel spreadsheet may take longer in many cases. I seriously doubt that Court resources will be saved. I don’t mind change where necessary and for the better, but I question whether that is so in this case. However the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) is again to be applauded for trying to find a workable solution to this apparent inevitability. They should be carefully listened to, as they represent the profession with huge and unrivaled experience on this subject. 

"With such a focus on modernising civil justice, some form of electronic bill of costs is inevitable. Done properly, it can offer significant benefits to parties, judges and lawyers alike. Nobody is better placed that the ACL to take the lead on this and we believe that the ACL bill will smooth the path for what will be a major change in the way litigators operate."
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Michael Fletcher

Partner, Head of Costs and Advocacy

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