News in brief – 07-03-2019

LSB extends approval period for Costs Lawyer training overhaul

The Legal Services Board (LSB) has given itself until 25 April to decide whether to approve the Costs Lawyer Standards Board’s application to overhaul the training regime and introduce the Costs Lawyer Competency Assessment.

The LSB had an initial 28 days in which to make a decision, but has exercised its power under the Legal Services Act 2007 to extend this to 90 days. Chief executive Neil Buckley said: “The end of the decision period will therefore be 25 April 2019, although the LSB can make a decision before that date.”

 

Challenge to bill dismissed because of vague points of dispute

The Senior Costs Judge was entitled to dismiss summarily a challenge to £64,000 included in a bill for work done on documents where the objections to all items claimed were generally that an excessive amount of time had been taken and that there had been duplication between fee-earners.

According to a Lawtel report of Kjerulf Ainsworth v Stewarts Law, His Honour Judge Klein – sitting in the Chancery Division – ruled that such a pleading, without explaining why particular items were objected to and why, did not comply with paragraph 8.2 of practice direction 47, prejudiced the respondent and did not further the overriding objective.

It explained that Master Gordon-Saker (pictured) had expressed surprise that every item in the schedules of work done on documents was challenged, since it was unlikely that they should all be reduced to nil. “He further stated that the fact that the points of dispute did not state why any particular item was disputed caused a problem for the respondent. He held that the points of dispute did not raise a proper challenge to the time spent on documents and could not properly be answered by the respondent. He dismissed the objection to the claim for work done on documents as it had not been properly pleaded.”

Summarising HHJ Klein’s ruling, Lawtel reported: “The purpose of concise and focused points of dispute was to save time at the hearing. The points of dispute did not raise a proper challenge that could be dealt with. It could not be right that all items were objected to and it was wrong to reserve further items of challenge to the hearing.

“The appellant’s pleading meant that the hearing was likely to take longer and prejudiced the respondent. The pleading did not further the overriding objective. The issue then was what options had been properly open to the judge. If he did nothing, the appellant would in effect be permitted to make whatever objections he liked and take as long as he liked.

“The judge’s decision to dispose summarily of the objection was a proportionate response to the appellant’s failure to comply with paragraph 8.2 and the overriding objective. The hearing date had been fixed for five months and the appellant had been on notice of the respondent’s objection to the form of the pleading. The appellant had had access to the file and had failed to take the opportunity to particularise his objections properly. The judge’s decision was not outside the reasonable range or plainly wrong.”

Joshua Munro (instructed by Clarke Barnes) for appellant and Robin Dunne (instructed by Stewarts Law) for the respondent.

 

Legal aid review panel opened up to chartered legal executives

Chartered legal executives – also known as CILEx Fellows – are now allowed to sit on the special controls review panel, which deals to appeals relating to Legal Aid Agency decisions in certain high-cost cases and other more complex cases.

The panel is an independent review body currently made up of practicing solicitors and barristers. Chaired by Heather Williams QC, it sits bi-monthly as a three-member committee. A new change has opened up membership to Fellows – so long as they are either a contract supervisor or able to demonstrate they meet the equivalent contract requirements – and extended all members’ term lengths from three to five years.

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Costs News
Published date
07 Mar 2019

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