How will you manage your first solicitor and client detailed assessment?

Although long predicted to become the new frontier in costs, solicitor and client costs assessments are still relatively rare.  However, there are good reasons to suppose that ‘statutory’ assessments of costs incurred in contentious business will soon become a much more regular feature on the costs landscape.

For many ‘successful’ litigants, budgeting has undoubtedly increased the shortfall between their costs spend and costs recovery.  That gap is unlikely to close for those involved in litigation of modest financial value, with the wider application of fixed costs. For those involved in more substantial and very high value litigation, the picture – from the winner’s point of view – is no better.  With the ebbing away of no risk CFA funding, the era of costs-free litigation is coming to an end.

Whilst the legal profession earnestly hopes that the Court of Appeal will shortly provide a clear legal test for Jackson proportionality, it is only a question of the degree to which (and not whether) proportionality will cause the costs gap to widen.  Successful litigants can no longer expect to recover two thirds or three quarters of their outlay. Some will do. However, many more inter parties costs claims than ever before will be very significantly reduced, and simply because they are not Jackson proportionate.

Notwithstanding the formidable obstacles, procedural and practical, that face the would-be statutory costs claimant, it is inevitable that a greater number, many well-resourced, will consider a challenge to their solicitor’s bill as they seek to minimise the post Jackson costs gap.

With more than 20 years’ experience, we at DeNovo have put together a ‘need to know’ two part guide to statutory assessment.

This edition

Part 1: Routes to challenging bills for contentious business

Covering the different options, which depend on whether the parties have entered into an ‘ordinary’, or a ‘statutory’ contract of retainer (a ‘non-contentious business agreement’); the time limits (including a review of the law on ‘special circumstances’)

Next edition

Part 2:  Procedure and Presumptions (and in this context address the importance of the often overlooked distinction between interim and ‘statutory’ bills)

Covering the procedure for commencing and progressing assessment proceedings, as well as the basis on which costs will be assessed.

Top Tips: Common problems and pitfalls.

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Michael Heslin

Director (London and Norwich)

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