News in brief 28th January 2015

Brown adds to budget

HHJ Simon Brown QC has shown how judges can make recommendations that the approved costs budget can be increased in relation to specific additional costs. At the end of his ruling in Excelerate Technology Ltd v Cumberbatch & Anor [2015] EWHC B1 (Mercantile), he included a section entitled ‘Judge’s observations on Claimant’s costs additional to their costs budget’ and highlighted three items that he “considered to be prima-facie reasonable”.

Insolvency push

The Ministry of Justice is to look again at whether the LASPO exemption given to insolvency litigation should come to an end on 1 April, it emerged last week.

Taking up the cause of R3, the representative body for insolvency practitioners, Conservative peer Lord Flight laid an amendment to the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill that would make the exemption permanent.

Business minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe said the “limited” delay in implementing the LASPO reforms to insolvency cases was “to give interested parties sufficient time to adjust to the changes”.

She continued: “The reforms will control legal costs on both sides and help to curb the compensation culture by removing incentives and excessive litigation. Meritorious cases can and will still be brought.

“That said, I note the concerns that litigation brought on behalf of insolvent estates has some differences in principle to other types of litigation. I also note the concerns about the potential impacts on litigation practice on behalf of insolvent estates.

“I have heard what has been said and, if I may, I will take this amendment away and consider it urgently with colleagues in the Ministry of Justice in time for report stage.”

Date set for compulsory use of CCMS

Use of the Client and Cost Management System (CCMS) for submitting new civil applications is to become mandatory from 1 October, the Legal Aid Agency (LAA) has announced.

The CCMS was rolled out on a voluntary basis in April 2014 and, in a notification sent to providers this week, the LAA said that more than half of the 1,600 providers ultimately expected to use the system are already using it. The system has already processed over 21,000 cases and accounts for about a third of all civil legal aid transactions each week – a number that is steadily increasing.

It said: “Following discussions with representative bodies, we are offering an eight-month notice period – substantially more than the minimum three-month period – which will allow your organisation to continue to use the system voluntarily and give your staff time to undertake our CCMS training programme.”

Carol Storer, director of the Legal Aid Practitioners Group, said it continued to receive feedback on a range of issues, including that the CCMS is slow to use, that it is frustrating that users cannot upload documents when an application is sent off, that loading of time recording for billing is not where it needs to be and that the lack of an audit trail so users can see what has been sent off is a massive concern.

“The LAA is seeking to make some changes to tackle these, but seeing copies of what has been sent is likely to remain a problem,” she said.

“We are working closely with Resolution and the Law Society on this. Resolution are waiting to hear the date of their meeting with Shailesh Vara MP, the legal aid minister. They represented the concerns about the system and stressed LAPG and the Law Society shared those concerns.”

The ACL’s legal aid special interest group also supports the position of these other representative bodies, and has been keeping up the pressure on the LAA to address what it believes are critical problems with the CCMS, including basic functions and training for ACL members.

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Published date
11 Mar 2015

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