Costs committee begins work on expense of time

Expense of time: committee sets out focus

The Civil Justice Council’s costs committee has set out the data it is initially seeking relating to expense of time as it begins work on reviewing the guideline hourly rates.

A synopsis of the committee’s meeting earlier this month said will be start by looking for information on grade of fee-earner and region, salary for each level of fee-earner, chargeable hours per fee-earner/region, and overhead costs allocated per fee-earner/region.

Having worked out the costings under these headings, the 14-member committee, headed by Mr Justice Foskett and Senior Costs Judge Hurst, will then move onto “the more sensitive task of factoring in a suitable profit margin”.

The committee has previously made clear that it should not be assumed that the rates will go up as a result of its work.

Two of the academics supporting the committee – Professors Paul Fenn and Neil Rickman – have been tasked with reviewing to what extent information that already exists will help in measuring the expense of solicitors’ time, and the areas in which the committee will need to supplement it with its own survey.

Much of this information has so far been supplied by the Law Society, although the committee discussed the possible availability of data from other sources, such as the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Association of British Insurers and others.

As well as agreeing its own survey, among the committee’s next steps will be to look at inviting evidence from interested groups and “to consider ways at encouraging as wide a response as possible from solicitors’ firms”.

The summary said: “The chairman reiterated that it was the role of the committee to make recommendations to the Master of the Rolls based on the evidence that it had gathered from a wide range of sources and then tested, debated and assessed.”

The committee is due to report by 31 March 2014 after the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, agreed to extend the deadline. It will next meet in July.