News in brief 19th February 2015

Record turnover for Just Costs Solicitors

Just Costs Solicitors said this week that its turnover for 2014/15 had hit £6.1m, up 13% on the previous year’s £5.4m.

Just Costs now employs more than 100 people and said it acts for more than 300 law firms. During the last 12 months, the firm has relocated to a new Manchester head office and opened in Leeds in addition to its existing offices in London and Chesterfield. To facilitate future growth, Just Costs also agreed a £1.1m funding package with NatWest.

Managing director and founder Paul Shenton said: “Personal injury is a traditionally strong area of our business and has continued to perform well, while our commercial litigation costs practice has enjoyed its best ever year with a number of big ticket instructions. This is an area we are looking to further develop in the future.”

New costs rules pass into law

The Criminal Courts & Justice Bill received Royal Assent last week, introducing various new costs rules – although there is not currently a date for implementation.

On judicial review, applicants will have to disclose their funding arrangements but there will be a lower limit on the level of contributions which would trigger the requirement to identify those involved. There is to be a consultation on where the threshold should be set, with a suggested figure likely to be £1,500 and a further test of 5% of all funds.

Once costs come to be considered, the court or tribunal will have to decide whether to order costs to be paid by a third party identified through that information.

The Act also makes provision for interveners having to pay costs in certain circumstances, and for costs capping in judicial review.

Finally, where a court makes a wasted costs order, it must inform the lawyer’s approved regulator and the Legal Aid Agency if appropriate.

Law Society steps up court fees fight

Solicitors have warned that the government’s increases in some civil court fees from April will lead to small business insolvencies and access to justice becoming a preserve of the elite.

There has been growing criticism from lawyers and non-lawyers alike of the increases, which in many cases will amount to rises of several hundred per cent.

The government is introducing an ‘enhanced’ court fee – that is, above cost price – of 5% of the value of money claims over £10,000, with a cap of £10,000. It said the level of court fee was a secondary consideration for those considering litigating, while fee remissions were available and the fee would be recoverable if successful.

A Law Society poll of nearly 200 solicitors found that the total value of cases brought by individuals would likely fall by around one-third (35%) under higher court fees. For small and medium-sized companies, it would halve.

Law Society president Andrew Caplen said: “Court fee hikes… spell disaster for access to justice, pricing the public out of the courts and leaving small businesses saddled with debts they are due but unable to afford to recover… We are pressing the government to reverse its decision, which will have a far-reaching impact on people who have valid claims and on solicitors doing everything they can to help their clients seek justice through the courts.”

The poll suggested that the new fees would put people off going to court when they have genuine claims, provide an incentive for large companies to deny liability and lead to small business insolvency.

“Companies suffering cash flow problems as a result of unpaid invoices simply do not have money in the bank to stump up extortionate court fees,” Mr Caplen added.

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11 Mar 2015

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