Are there any changes to the existing rules?
Currently CPR 3.18 remains the key rule to consider when preparing and serving a Bill of Costs on a claim which has been cost managed and costs budgets have been approved by the Court or agreed between the parties. Bills are currently being split to identify where work has been completed within the different phases of the budget and as such the basic premise is not going to change, but rather just the format of the document produced and level of detail contained therein.
What are J Codes and why are they mentioned?
The overarching purpose of these codes has been to assist courts and other parties in performing analysis of costs at different levels, including the comparison of actual costs to budgeted costs.
Given the above, the primary aim of the new J-Codes is to enable the courts in England and Wales – including Judges and Costs’ Judges – to summarise and analyse time worked and costs incurred by lawyers during a litigation case. It was intended that these would represent universal codes utilised by all solicitors and applicable to all work required during the course of a legal claim.
Although this was an initial requirement of the New Model Bill of Costs, the compulsory inclusion of the same has now been abandoned during the process of consultation given the difficulty in applying the same across the board.
Will the changes affect the information we need to record on our file?
We are already experienced in evaluating files which have been cost managed and correctly/appropriately phasing the time and costs which have been incurred. We will continue to do so whilst applying any changes which may develop during the course of the ongoing consultation period. We anticipate little issue in terms of time recording generally but will of course keep you updated as to any developments here that will affect you.
Will MRN deal with all formats of the New Model Bill of Costs as are required at PD51L, 3.2?
Yes – our bespoke system will be equipped to provide the relevant documentation in all formats required for service on the Defendant and to the Court.
I have served a Bill since 3.10.16 which was prepared in the current format – will I need to re-serve in the new model format?
Initially, the scheme is a pilot and therefore will not become mandatory until October 2017. It is certainly hoped that there will be a transitional provision to cover situations such as these because from a practical point of view it would interrupt the detailed assessment process causing potentially significant costs consequences for both parties. By way of example, in a case where a Bill has been served pre-scheme, with Disputes received and the assessment request made to the court, it would serve little purpose to overturn the process and start over from scratch simply because of the date the assessment is listed. There will be a need for clear guidelines which should anticipate that Bills served before the mandatory cut-off date will proceed under the rules that previously applied.
The New Bill looks onerous and difficult to put together. Is this going to take more time to do and escalate costs?
MRN are costs specialists who already approach cases with this level of detail in mind. The preparations being made in readiness for the transition will ensure that we can achieve compliance on your behalf by allowing the tools and software to absorb some of the burden in terms of formatting. The final product does appear to be an onerous and unfamiliar document at first glance, but its value in collating the information to give greater effect to the budgeting process should serve firms well when the time comes for us to illustrate the costs expenditure and press hard for successful recovery.
By Louise Sattherthwaite & Victoria Weinrich-Cooke