Lord Justice Jackson has been carrying out ‘research’ into the operation of costs budgeting in advance of a lecture next month, the Judicial Office has confirmed.
Colin Richmond, a barrister at Zenith Chambers, gave a detailed account on the chambers website of one of a “series of meetings across the country” held by Jackson LJ to gather views from lawyers on which aspects are working well, which are not, and which of the rules may need to be changed.
Mr Richmond, who attended a meeting in Leeds last month, said the judge had made it clear any views he expressed “were preliminary views only and that his opinion may change once he has completed the review process”.
A spokesman for the Judicial Office said: “Lord Justice Jackson has been conducting some research into the operation of costs budgeting ahead of delivering a lecture next month on the topic.
“This is not a formal review as such, but clearly the lecture will help inform the debate and any future review and evaluation that takes place. The details and conclusions of this work will be reflected in the lecture, and more details of that will be available soon.”
Highlighting the “main points” discussed at the meeting, Mr Richmond said: “There was general agreement that there is a lack of consistency in the way different court and judges at local level deal with costs budgeting.
“Some judges have embraced the process, whereas others give the impression of being keen to avoid budgeting if at all possible.
“Some judges scrutinise budgets very carefully, with others taking a much more broad-brush approach, to the extent of simply providing an overall figure for the whole budget on the basis that a party should then divide it among the phases as it sees fit.
“Jackson LJ suggested that there appeared to be a real need for greater training of judges on the budgeting process.”
Mr Richmond said there was a further problem with lack of consistency as to the orders made following the filing of directions questionnaires, with some courts requiring “very little” to be filed in advance and others “very large amounts of paperwork”.
Jackson LJ was reported to have suggested that a set of standard directions to be used by courts across the country could be useful.
Mr Richmond went on: “The date when budgets should be filed was raised. Jackson LJ initially suggested that, in his view, seven days before the hearing was appropriate, allowing the parties to file the most up-to-date budgets possible while still having time to try and agree them.
“Some practitioners felt that seven days left too little time to come to any agreement and 21 days would be more appropriate. Jackson LJ questioned whether or not 14 days might be a sensible compromise.”
On guideline hourly rates, despite Lord Dyson’s announcement that they would remain the same indefinitely in the absence of funding for an in-depth survey, Jackson LJ is reported to have suggested that a “full review” was necessary and mentioning the possible use of a “complexity uplift”.
Lord Justice Jackson’s lecture will be delivered on 13 May alongside the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson.