As many of you will know, the issue of Guideline Hourly rates has been a hot topic over the last few weeks following the decision from Master Whalan in the case of PLK & Ors (2020) (MRN previous article)
Speaking at the Association of Costs Lawyers annual conference on Friday 13 November 2020, Senior Costs Judge, Master Gordon-Saker commented on the impact of the ruling and also provided an update on the review of the guideline hourly rates. Addressing the question as to whether the 20% uplifted guideline hourly rates allowed by Master Whalan in PLK & Ors  could be applied to other civil matters, Master Gordon-Saker said that Master Whalan’s judgment was intended to apply only to Court of Protection matters, but that it would be surprising if receiving parties in other civil matters did not refer to the ruling.
The case of PLK & Ors (2020) raises the clear question that if the guideline hourly rates cannot be applied equitably in Court of Protection matters without some form of monetary uplift that recognises the effect of inflation and other commercial pressures, can they can be applied reasonably in other civil matters? Master Gordon-Saker said that the Working Group tasked with conducting the evidence-based review of the basis and amount of the guideline hourly rates now aimed to provide an initial report on their findings by the end of 2020. Last month Litigation Futures reported that the Working Group had received “useful data” but not much from the legal profession about assessments or agreements in relation to hourly rates over the past 18 months. This is a stark warning light to the profession that for Guideline Hourly rates to be appropriately considered, there must be input from firms or else there is a real risk that there will be a repeat of the previous review back in 2014 where a lack of data then was cited as an issue when trying to assess figures that would be reasonable.
The Working Group is still currently seeking data for assessments (or agreements) in relation to hourly rates between 1 September 2020 and 27 November 2020. We have provided a copy of the link below in the event you feel you can provide data to the Working Group and assist with their recommendations to the Master of the Rolls.
Master Gordon-Saker also hinted that geographical banding, whilst likely to remain may only be an interim measure as he felt that a wider review may be required in two or three years to look at the working practices of firms in the wake of the pandemic.
If you require any further guidance as to the information that should be provided in relation to costs assessments or agreements, please do get in touch with us using the contact details below.
This information can be provided within a simple electronic form, which can be found together with instructions here https://communities.lawsociety.org.uk/civil-litigation-news-and-updates/guideline-hourly-ratescall-for-evidence/6001404.article. The Working Group are also happy to receive the data in any alternative format.
Rebecca Mogford – Head of Technical