The committee reviewing the guideline hourly rates is set to issue a short call for evidence next month.
HHJ David Hodge QC, the circuit judge member of the Civil Justice Council costs committee has said that the consultation will open at the beginning of November.
Solicitors from all areas of law will have a month to respond and will be asked for their views supported by evidence. It is understood that sessions will be held with selected professional bodies, organisations and firms in February 2014.
Judge Hodge has said the committee will seek information from practitioners on salaries, fee income, hours claimed and overheads for each grade of fee-earner in each geographical band, as well as the variance of income between different fields of work.
As everyone knows, guideline rates were last increased in 2010 and the committee has been charged with conducting an extensive evidence-based review, making recommendations to the master of the rolls by 31 March 2014 to assist him in devising the new rates.
Judge Hodge said the current rates are effectively based on data from as far back as 2007 and with the emergence of the Jackson reforms, there is a desperate need to review the current costs of running a solicitor’s practice.
Unfortunately, Mr Justice Fosket who has been charged with conducting the review and making recommendations to the Master of the Rolls has warned solicitors not to assume the rates will increase as a result.
There is speculation as to whether specific rates should be set for significant areas of litigation – such as commercial, personal injury and clinical negligence, as well as a review of the current geographical bands.
Murray Heining, chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers, said: ‘Though the GHR are a benchmark, and not the fixed rates some believe them to be, the committee’s work will lay the foundations of costs assessments for years to come. This process will make the GHR even more influential than they already are and it is imperative that costs lawyers and solicitors ensure that the committee has all the information it needs to recommend realistic and viable new rates.”The committee reviewing the guideline hourly rates (GHR) is set to issue a short call for evidence next month and it is vital that practitioners participate in the process, the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) has warned.
The advantage of this consultation on hourly rates, as opposed to previous consultations is that this time practitioners have a chance to inform the process by submitting their views. After all, surely it is the practitioners themselves that are most aware as to the running of a law firm?!