A voluntary pilot of the new bill of costs – seen as crucial to the costs management regime – is set to start in the Senior Courts Costs Office on 1 October 2015 ahead of a compulsory pilot next spring, it has emerged.
The Civil Procedure Rule Committee approved the pilot and associated practice direction last month. The aim is test the bill and amend it as necessary before making it mandatory in all cases where a costs order is made after April 2016.
Before this, the draft new bill and guidance documents have been put out for consultation, closing on 18 September.
It is the product of a committee currently chaired by Alexander Hutton QC of Hailsham Chambers, formed following a recommendation in the Jackson report that “a new format of bills of costs should be devised, which will be more informative and capable of yielding information at different levels of generality”.
The draft guidance said that the “ultimate aim” of the committee “is to create the foundations of a system under which contentious work is contemporaneously recorded electronically and, from that time-recording data, various levels of information are produced automatically and at proportionate cost for budgeting, summary assessment and detailed assessment purposes”.
A year ago the committee completed the first stage of its work when the J-Codes – electronic time recording codes which will be used by fee-earners – were approved by the senior judiciary and the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) oversight committee.
Since then it has been working to design the new bill of costs. This aims to be a “self-calculating, self-summarising spreadsheet document based on the J-Codes, which is capable of being generated automatically by use of the J-Codes and adopting the same structure”, the guidance said.
A paper submitted to the CPRC added: “The new bill of costs is an essential part of the process by which costs management can be fully implemented through to the costs assessment stage.”
The voluntary phase of the pilot will be available where the notice of commencement of detailed assessment is served on the paying party on or after 1 October 2015.
The second phase will be a compulsory pilot – subject to possible let-outs – in which the finalised draft bill of costs will be used in the SCCO for all cases where a costs management order and actual costs order was made on or after 1 April 2016. The length of this stage of the pilot will depend on experience in the first phase.