News in brief – 05.09.2019

PCF consultation closing soon

A reminder that Costs Lawyers have until midnight on Monday 9 September to respond to the Costs Lawyer Standards Board (CLSB) consultation on increasing the practising certificate fee (PCF) by £25 to £275, the first rise since 2011.

The consultation paper said that, “given inflationary pressures over time, as well as increases in the levies that we are required to pay to other organisations, it is now prudent to increase the PCF”.


DWF launches automated costs tool

Listed law firm DWF has launched a new tool for fast-track personal injury claims, which it says is capable of calculating costs in tens of thousands of cases every year.

The Semi-Autonomous Fixed-Costs Tool (SAFT, pronounced ‘safety’) had been designed in-house at DWF by its Costs Lawyers and the DWF 360 software business.

SAFT uses automated data extraction, data analytics and the costs rules to ensure that fixed recoverable costs claims have been accurately calculated and that claims for disbursements are reasonable. Claims which are wrong or unreasonable are recalculated and the results sent by email to the claimant’s lawyers. Only if these figures are rejected will DWF’s costs team have to analyse and assess the claim manually.

Costs Lawyer Simon Murray, commercial development director for DWF’s connected services division and the firm’s head of costs, said: “The idea is that SAFT is autonomous. There is no need for human intervention, apart from a very simplified instruction process for clients.

“They know the right figure will be paid and the lawyers can get on with the litigation rather than the costs. Clients can put all their claims through the system, though some who are more risk averse may opt for a more manual system as a checking mechanism.”

The next iteration would tackle costs claims when fixed recoverable costs were extended to higher-value cases, he said, and would also use machine learning to predict outcomes.

“This is an indication of the way in which the market will move to enable us to continue to be profitable,” Mr Murray said. “We already have electronic bills of costs and e-billing. The use of technology is unavoidable.”


Budgeting “not inevitable” in high-value injury cases

Costs budgeting is not “inevitable” in high-value injury cases and lawyers should consider whether the best approach may be to dispense with it altogether, a leading practitioner has suggested.

Charles Cory-Wright QC of 39 Essex recounted a case he is currently involved in where the master acceded to a join request from the parties not to budget after they had produced budgets for consideration.

CPR 3.15(2) provides that, where costs budgets have been filed and exchanged, the court will make a costs management order unless it is satisfied that the litigation can be “conducted justly and at proportionate cost in accordance with the overriding objective without such an order being made”.

Writing on the Human Rights Blog, Mr Cory-Wright – a former chair of the Personal Injuries Bar Association – said the court in the quantum-only dispute had already ordered the parties to prepare alternative budgets: one to trial two years down the line, and one to a further case management conference 15 months later, at which further directions could be given.

This was the result of both sides agreeing that there were real questions as to the stage at which it would be possible to identify with precision what further expert evidence would be needed.

At the costs budgeting hearing, Mr Cory-Wright said it became clear that the Queen’s Bench master’s appetite for budgeting at all at that stage “was not great”.

He explained: “This was essentially due to a recognition that there was genuine continued uncertainty as to a number of expert disciplines required, and that it was much more likely that certainty as to how that would be achieved by the time of a further CCMC.” Further, it “gradually also became clear that, for similar reasons, there was an argument for not budgeting this case at all”.

With a large amount of profit costs and disbursements already incurred – which would have to be assessed come what may – any further delay in budgeting may mean that a majority of the costs would be then by incurred.

The master decided that costs budgeting – and the possibility of dispensing with it altogether – should be deferred to the further CCMC.

Mr Cory-Wright recounted: “After the hearing, both parties realised that preparation for a further CCMC with draft budgets was a potentially very expensive and fruitless exercise.”

They made a joint submission to the master – which he ultimately accepted – that this was a case where budgeting should be dispensed with, on the grounds that it was not possible sensibly to budget at this stage and that, by the time the budgeting could be done, most of the costs would already have been incurred.

The barrister said: “If it was appropriate (as it clearly was) for costs budgeting to be dispensed with in this case, there must be many other cases of which they same could be said, that is, where the parties can satisfy the requirement of CPR 3.15(2).”


Exclusive Access

Members only article

This article is exclusively for ACL members. Please log in to proceed, or click the button below to fill out an application from and become a part of our professional community.

Post details

Post type
Costs News
Published date
05 Sep 2019

Fill this form out to be notified when booking goes live.

Your Full Name
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.