Two years into the Jackson costs reforms and we could be forgiven for thinking that the changes were bedding in and we could look forward to a period of relative calm with little change on the horizon. For practitioners dealing with cost issues, and that should be all litigators at various points in their work, the horizon is now looking decidedly choppy. So what can we look forward to over the coming year?
1. Changes to costs CPR provisions
A new sub-committee of the Civil Procedure Rules committee, chaired by Mr Justice Coulson will be reviewing the operation of the costs management rules. Lord Justice Jackson in his speech last night gave some insight into the issues which will be under consideration:
Pre action costs management in cases where such costs are high
Amendment to CPR 3.15 and CPR PD 3E – making of a costs management orders
When costs budgets should be filed – his view is 14 days before the CMC subject to court discretion
A standard form of costs management order
Court powers to deal with costs incurred prior to the costs budget. Be warned this could include the ability to deal with them by summary assessment
Improvements to Precedent H
2. The introduction of J codes
Whilst this was in the news last year it seemed to fade from view. The Hutton Committee however continue to work on the introduction and at the ACL Conference last week set out a strong recommendation that firms should start to record time in line with the J codes. A voluntary introduction will take place in October this year with a mandatory pilot scheme coming into force in April next year for any costs applications in the SCCO.
Look out for more on this here from Alexander Hutton QC later this month.
3. Part 36
The new Part 36 rules introduction last month will continue to bed down and we will start to see the impact on costs from the application of the new rules.
4. Guideline hourly rates
Will Guideline hourly rates have had their day? Stuck at rates from 2010 and with many decisions looking in detail at hourly rates will the relevance of the GHR diminish as the courts look to other ways of determining whether costs sought should be ordered?
The new regulations are currently being drafted. In discussions at the ACL conference last week it became apparent that there is still a long way to go in terms of ironing out the concerns practitioners have with the existing regulations which have been given a wide berth by many practitioners. Questions such as whether counsels fees should be included within the cap remain to be determined and the use of hybrid DBAs which was specifically ruled out by the Government last year is still being discussed – the question of will they or won’t they be introduced at some stage still hangs around.
6. Peripheral issues designed to save costs
Electronic bundling has been introduced in the Supreme Court and will come in elsewhere but there are currently no plans for use in the Civil Courts. Will this change? The costs savings of having electronic bundles can be enormous in heavy document cases. HHJ Simon Brown QC is definitely of the view that solicitors should make more use of the technology which is readily available in the courts.