Bill of Costs Decision Delayed

The Ministry of Justice will consider the impact of the sweeping changes proposed as a result of implementing the mandatory bill of costs which was planned for October 2016.

Ministry of Justice sign on wallThe Hutton committee set up to decide the future of legal costs in civil litigation recommended last October that a new of bill of costs based on a move from paper to electronic assessment should be in place a year on, i.e. from October 2016.

In answer to the Jackson report a Committee, led by Alexander Hutton QC, proposed the Bill of Costs pilot which would be based around J-Codes (similar to the American L code system which uses a series of different code types for a variety of activities).  The ultimate aim of the new format bill is to create a system where contentious work is contemporaneously recorded electronically from time recording data for detailed assessment and budgeting.

In a document presented to the Civil Procedure Rule Committee last month, the Hutton committee said doubts have been expressed about the timing, accuracy and cost of the new format.  The committee agreed the plans for the bill of costs obviously represents a ‘huge change’ which will require practitioners to invest in new infrastructure.  They said its preferred option was to introduce the bill of costs on 1 October 2016 to allow sufficient time for firms to purchase relevant software.

The Civil Procedure Rule committee however, in minutes published from December’s meeting, has decided it is ‘too soon’ for any decision on this and acknowledged that the proposal had major implications for the profession. It was agreed that the matter needed to be given careful further consideration by the MoJ and by the committee.’

Despite this delay there is a clear intent by the Government to encourage the digitisation of the legal profession:

  • As part of the Chancellors Spending Review in December it was announced that £700 million will be invested to fully digitise the courts.
  • In the early part of last year the Civil Justice Council (CJC) advisory group – recommended IT related “fundamental change” regarding the way the courts deal with low-value claims.
  • As part of the Justice System Efficiency Programme, in July 2015, criminal defence lawyers were invited to road test a new crown court digital case system (DCS).

Bill of costs may or may not become mandatory from October this year, but it seems clear, despite reluctance by some, things are definitely moving forward.  Many people believe the Bill of Costs will very likely become compulsory at some point.

Select Legal Systems’ Costs Management Module was developed in line with Lord Justice Jackson’s reforms specifically for law firms (for more details please see the LAWFUSION Case Study re law firm SJP Law.

Phase III of the LAWFUSION Costs Management Module for law firms is currently in the final phase of development and testing and caters for J-Codes. It is on schedule to be made available Spring 2016. Also to be included in Phase III is a new bill format which will also be available to be piloted by Select Legal Systems’ clients soon too.

For more information about LAWFUSION, its Costs Management Module or any other aspect of the system please call 01482 567601.