The Senior Costs Judge has called on the Law Society to remind personal injury solicitors of their obligation to undertake individual risk assessments in low-value cases and not just apply a blanket 100% success fee.
Master Gordon-Saker also called for a broad extension of qualified one-way costs shifting (QOCS).
He was speaking at last week’s Civil Justice Council seminar on the government’s post-implementation review of part 2 of LASPO.
Master Gordon-Saker said: “One of the unintended consequences of LASPO is that there is a growing industry in challenging solicitor and own client bills, in part because a surprising number of solicitors seem to think that the success fee payable under the CFA by the client is fixed at 25% of the damages and that there is absolutely no need to make any assessment of the risk or to apply the resulting percentage to the base costs that were actually incurred.
“I think that the Law Society could do a bit of educating on that but I also think now may be the time to review the Solicitors Act 1974 and in particular part III, which deals with remuneration.”
The 100% success fee model is under scrutiny following a High Court ruling in March that said solicitors still needed to undertake individual risk assessments before setting the success fee.
In its evidence, the law firm involved, Hampson Hughes, said that, like most of the market, it had adopted a post-LASPO model of routinely charging a 100% success fee, capped at 25% of the damages.
The issue will be debated at our PI Futures conference on 18 September in Liverpool.
Master Gordon-Saker said he would extend QOCS “as far as it will go”.
He explained: “Recoverable ATE premiums were introduced because legal aid costs protection was lost. Now those ATE premiums are no longer recoverable, QOCS needs to fill the gap that was filled before ATE by legal aid costs protection.
“There is no reason it should not be extended to, for example, claims against the police or to claims for professional negligence where the claimant is of modest means. There is scope for means-based QOCS.”
More on the Jackson Reforms here.