The John M Hayes Partnership have proven to be professional, effective and knowledgeable Costs Draftsmen. The quality and speed of their drafting is excellent and the advice received has been detailed and pragmatic.
We are all familiar with the traditional paper style bill of costs, which is based on the Victorian Account book and has been widely used for many years, however, there is a new dawn arising with the introduction of the electronic bill of costs. The recent 92nd update to the Civil Procedure Rules (CPR) has brought into effect arguably one of the most significant and revolutionary changes in the costing world, the new electronic bill of costs, which will become mandatory in the SCCO and County Courts from 6 April 2018.
What is it supposed to achieve?
It is intended that electronic bills will provide more transparency in the amount of costs being claimed, be more user friendly with it being easier to amend figures and be less expensive to prepare. The new bill of costs will be self-calculating and easier to understand where costs have been incurred particularly where there has been a Costs Budget agreed. However, all this remains to be tested, as there was not a huge take up in the Pilot Scheme and the ultimate assessment of an electronic bill of costs remains to be undertaken with there only being one Master trained at present to deal with such bills.
The new rules
The new Practice Direction states that bills of costs for detailed assessment must be in electronic format and be compliant with the rules contained in the relevant practice direction. A model electronic bill has been provided in the form of Precedent S, which is an Excel document, although it is not compulsory that this version is used. The Judiciary are, however, being trained in Excel, so it may therefore be a good idea to ensure that any bill is prepared in an Excel format. The Association of Costs Lawyers were of the view that Precedent S was an overly complex document and so have drawn up their own version, which usefully includes the ability for Points of Dispute and Replies to be included on the same document and enables settlement calculations to be undertaken quite easily.
Electronic bills of costs will apply to all Part 7 multi-track claims except where proceedings are subject to fixed or scale costs, cases where the receiving party is a Litigant in Person and where the court has ordered otherwise. The new bill will relate to costs recoverable between the parties for work undertaken after 6 April 2018. For work preceding this date an old style bill of costs can be prepared, although equally a solicitor may choose to prepare an electronic bill for the entire matter.
Whenever electronic bills are served or filed at court a hard copy will also need to be provided. Given the number of tabs in the Precedent S and the number of columns on each tab this could lead to the bill of costs being quite a lengthy document.
Why might it be more complex than intended?
Work will be recorded by Phase, Task and Activity and it will be necessary to include the work in the bill on a line by line basis. It appears the intention of moving towards the electronic bill of costs was so that they could be prepared straight from a solicitor’s case management system, thereby reducing costs, however, it is highly unlikely that this will be the case, as it is anticipated that the majority of firms will not have such a sophisticated piece of software installed. Also, it is most certain that consideration will need to be given to the file in order to ensure that no solicitor/client work is included, that privileged documents and client confidentiality is maintained and also to ensure that work is not included subject to any adverse costs orders made in the case. Further, should a solicitor elect to have an electronic bill of costs prepared for the entire matter then it is not anticipated that the majority of firms will have been categorising their time recordings into the new Phase, Task and Activity and therefore this will also need to be undertaken.
Initial experience of preparing electronic bills of costs has highlighted a few areas for improvement with it being very easy to make a mistake in the Excel document and this not being picked up with all the formulas across the board. It also appears that rather than reducing the time taken to prepare a bill of costs this has actually been significantly increased by the need to include work on a line by line basis and then for it to be categorised accordingly.
We can help!
There is no doubt that bills of costs are moving into the 21st century and here at John M Hayes we are embracing this new electronic era. We are happy to answer any queries or assist with the preparation of the electronic bill of costs, so please feel free to contact us at any of our regional offices.
Costs Lawyer Donna Attwood, is based at our Birmingham Office. Her main caseload focuses on group travel litigation claims, where she heads up a separate costs team in the office to get through what are often complex claims. Donna also has vast experience in drafting bills of costs in privately and publicly funded cases, preparing points of dispute and replies, negotiating costs and preparing high costs case plans. and can be contacted direct at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 0121 643 0001.
Costs Lawyer LLB (Hons)
Tuesday 30th January 2018