The Royal Courts of Justice Senior Costs Judge, Andrew Gordon-Saker announced last week that the mandatory bill of costs pilot due to follow the voluntary pilot which began on 1 October 2015 in the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO) has been postponed. Although the mandatory pilot was earmarked to start on 1 April 2016, the Civil Procedure Rules Committee said it will not allow any mandatory scheme to come into effect before October 2016. The committee has extended the voluntary pilot by six months to October 2016 too.

Side of stone column parting in sunThe Bill of Costs pilot is a product of the Alexander Hutton QC Committee in answer to the Jackson report which recommended that a new format for bill of costs should be devised. 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.

Since then the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard oversight committee has approved the use of J-Codes for this purpose and a self-calculating, self-summarising spreadsheet has been designed using J-Codes.

J-Codes are based on the American L code system which basically uses a series of different code types for a variety of activities. For example ‘phase codes’ are used to categorise all civil litigation work by theme. E.g. disclosure or work related to the production of witness statements. ‘Task codes’ are used classify work by what is being done – such as reviewing the other party’s statement of case. Then there are ‘activity codes’ which set out how the work is being undertaken – i.e. researching a matter or drafting a document. ‘Expense codes’ categorise disbursements. ‘Timekeeper codes’ classify practitioners by seniority.

All the coded activity can then be grouped under various sections / layouts on a bill (a large and comprehensive spreadsheet) giving comparatives so a judge (and both sides) can easily determine what costs have been incurred and where etc.

Select Legal Systems Limited is well ahead of the game with its Costs Management Module developed in line with the Jackson report’s recommendations and is being used to great effect by a number of LAWFUSION users (including SJP Law – see case study).

Phase III of the LAWFUSION Costs Management Module for law firms is well underway and it will cater for J-Codes. It is on schedule to be made available from January 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 from January 2016.

Andrew Gordon-Saker told the annual Costs Law & Practice Conference in London last month that he sees little evidence of firms using J-Codes as yet and he recommended that firms invest in new software in order to address the changes. He warned when the new bill becomes compulsory, the old format bill of costs will not be allowed.

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