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The new format bill of costs is upon us, so what now asks Mat Knight

HarmansThe 86th Update to the CPR which came into force on 3 October 2016 extended the new bill of costs pilot scheme by a year and was modified to alleviate concerns raised about the existing form’s reliance on J Codes. The parties are able to file their new format bills in electronic format to assist the Court in assessing the bill, as any adjustment made by the Court to say the rate or hours claimed, would automatically be carried through to all relevant parts of the bill.

Practice Direction 51L relates to the new bill of costs pilot scheme. Although the new format bill remains voluntary at the moment, there is an express plan in Practice Direction 51L that the preparation of the new format bill will become mandatory.

The Rule committee are currently monitoring and reviewing the Pilot Scheme with an aim to fix the mandatory form of the new bill of costs at its meeting in May 2017.  The Pilot scheme was put in place with a view to establishing a mandatory form of bill of costs to apply to all work done after 1 October 2017.

The new bill of costs means the bill of costs in Precedent AB annexed to Practice Direction 51L as a “pdf version” together with an electronic spreadsheet version of the same bill in the form provided in paragraph 1.4 of Practice Direction 51L.

In order to utilise the new format bill to its full potential, firms of solicitors will be required to record their fee-earning time with reference to phase, task and activity. The use of J-Codes is recommended but not mandatory. Schedule 1 which is attached to Practice Direction 51L defines the phases, tasks, activities and expenses to utilise when preparing the new format bill.

We still await a decision on exactly when the new bill of costs will become compulsory and whether there is a transitional period between the use of the old format bill and the new one. There is still a lot of uncertainty with regard to how to deal with costs of long running matters.

A point to note is there is currently no new statement of costs (N260) in the pipeline as the Hutton Committee is concentrating on getting the new format bill right. I anticipate that there will be some form of new statement of costs in the future to reflect the changes to the new format bill.

With the above in mind, Harmans [1] utilise CostsMaster [2] to produce all of their bills of costs which is already geared up to prepare the new format bills.

To read more on the Harmans cost brief click here [3].