New bill of costs set to become compulsory from October 2017

Jackson: greater take-up

Jackson: greater take-up

The new format bill of costs is set to become compulsory in a year’s time after the rule committee decoupled it from mandatory use of the J-Codes, it has emerged.

The revised practice direction 51L – in force from 3 October in the latest update to the CPR – said the voluntary pilot has been extended for a further year and changes made “with a view to establishing a mandatory form of bill of costs to apply to all work done after 1 October 2017”.

It added that the Civil Procedure Rule Committee will monitor and review the pilot scheme and aim to fix the mandatory form of the new bill of costs at its meeting in May 2017.

The notes to the update said changes aimed “to alleviate concerns raised about the existing form’s reliance on J-Codes”.

“Parties will be able to file their bill in electronic format which will assist the court in assessing the bill as any adjustment made by the court, to say the rate or hours claimed, will automatically be carried through to all relevant parts of the bill.”

In a speech in April, Lord Justice Jackson recommended that the new format bill of costs developed by the Hutton committee needed to be brought into use but should be decoupled from the J-Codes to make it more palatable to the profession.

He said this would allow “greater flexibility” and promote take-up given that “most – if not all – of the criticisms about the new format bill of costs are aimed at the J-Codes”.

Writing in June about their experience of handling the first case under the voluntary pilot, Bradley Meads of Kain Knight and Virginia Rylatt of Rylatt Chubb said: “The experience showed that the new J-Codes are too complicated, that dealing with such costs is too labour-intensive and that the time spent dealing with costs under the new scheme is at least 100% increased on what they would have been otherwise.”

As a result, the revised practice direction includes a new Precedent AB, and it says that in addition to the existing new bill format, parties can use any other spreadsheet so long as it:

  • Reports and aggregates costs based on the phases, tasks, activities and expenses defined in schedule 1 to the practice direction;
  • Reports summary totals in a form comparable to Precedent AB;
  • Automatically recalculates intermediate and overall summary totals if input data is changed; and
  • Contains all calculations and reference formulae in a transparent manner “so as to make its full functionality available to the court and all other parties”.

The Association of Costs Lawyers has been promoting a simplified version of the new bill.

    Readers Comments

  • Having looked at the ACL version, it cannot cope with anywhere near as much as the version developed by the Hutton Committee and so any reference to a “simplified version” is misleading in my view.

    Also, in respect of Kain Knight’s experience of the handling “the first case under the voluntary pilot”, I understand that was a case where the time was reverse engineered from how solicitor’s have tended to record their time into J-Code phases and tasks. Inevitably, taking some data that has been created using different time recording methods and turning it into data that can be presented as though it was recorded using different phases or tasks is bound to be more time consuming.

    I would urge practitioners to take a proper look at the new bill and where necessary obtain some guidance on how they should best prepare for the impending changes in respect of work undertaken from 1 Oct 17 onwards.

    If embraced properly, it will or certainly should lead to less expense on bill preparation but more importantly the costs of assessment process generally.

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