Mr Justice Foskett, chairman of the Civil Justice Council’s costs committee, has hit out at defendant law firms for failing to respond to the survey informing its review of the guideline hourly rates (GHR).
Foskett J said only four firms doing 94% or more defendant work had responded to the survey, as well as two that did 40-85%.
“I don’t know how many firms are out there, but intuitively this seems a very low response rate,” he said. “Our recommendations are only as good as the evidence.”
Speaking at the Jaggards and Taylor Rose Law costs and litigation conference yesterday, Foskett J said the costs committee’s report had been handed to the Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, who is reviewing the GHR and would give his decision shortly.
Foskett J said his committee had gathered some “very powerful evidence” from the Association of British Insurers and the NHS Litigation Authority, and “equally powerful material” from claimant lawyers.
However, he said the committee had “no significant resources” to carry out its work or carry out a nationwide, randomised survey of solicitor prices.
He said the response from the “paying community” had been disappointing and warned that anyone who criticised the committee’s recommendations and came from a firm that did not take part in the survey, should bear mind how difficult it had been to get a reliable evidence base.
Foskett J announced early last month that the committee’s report had been submitted to the Master of the Rolls. The committee was given the task of reviewing the GHR in April 2013, and was meant to have reported to Lord Dyson by 31 March 2014, having originally said a January 2014 deadline was too tight.
In a speech earlier in the conference, Master Gordon-Saker, a member of the Senior Court Costs Office (SCCO), said the new provisional assessment regime for cases with costs of up to £75,000, was “not as problematic as many had predicted”.
Master Gordon-Saker said cases worth between £50,000 to £75,000 were referred to costs judges. “It’s not the flood of cases that many predicted, but there is a steady flow”.
Master Haworth, another member of the SCCO, said earlier this week that the provisional assessment regime “just hasn’t happened”.