News | General

Time To Prepare For The New Format Bill Of Costs!

04 July 2017

After a further delay due to IT issues, we can now expect no earlier than April 2018 to witness the biggest change to how legal costs claims are presented since the days of Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’ and Jarndyce v Jarndyce!  Many lawyers are unprepared for this massive change and this Briefing aims to set out the fundamentals.

Since Lord Justice Jackson’s Review of Civil Litigation Costs there have been determined efforts to introduce a bill of costs that can also be presented in the form of an electronic spreadsheet, created automatically by using time recording and disbursement data input during the currency of the case. In May this year the Civil Procedure Rule Committee agreed, subject to ministerial approval, that the use of the new electronic bill of costs will be mandatory in the Senior Court Costs Office from 1 October 2017 although this has now been put back to no sooner than April 2018.

This new bill of costs is Precedent AB as annexed to Practice Direction 51L of the Civil Procedure Rules. This bill of costs has been designed to utilise coded time recording and is the format used for the existing Pilot Scheme but unfortunately there has been limited use of the new bill of costs, so it is impossible to properly evaluate its merits.  However the Rule Committee will not allow such minor details, or the minimal positive feedback stand in the way of progress!

The existing Practice Direction (PD) describes the “New Bill of Costs” to mean Precedent AB and also an electronic spreadsheet version in any format provided that it:

  1. reports and aggregates costs based on the phases, tasks, activities and expenses (the dreaded term “J-Code” is no longer used!)
  2. reports summary totals in a form comparable to Precedent AB;
  3. automatically recalculates intermediate and overall summary totals if input data is changed; and
  4. contains all calculations and reference formulae in a transparent manner so as to make its full function available to the court and all other parties.

Do not expect the electronic spreadsheet to differ much from the Precedent AB so as to avoid disputes that it complies with the PD. Under this new procedure, the bill of costs will be served in pdf format and a copy of the spreadsheet will also be provided by email or ‘other electronic means’ which is presumed to mean USB or such like.  Emailing the bill of costs will present significant problems as most companies and courts limit the size of documents that can be sent by email and large bills of costs are likely to exceed such limits.  Also there are clear security concerns about documents arriving electronically via email or USB, as graphically highlighted during the recent ransomware attacks.

The process for preparing Points of Dispute and Replies is also very unclear, although the aim appears to be that they be added to the same spreadsheet.

The impending introduction of the new bill of costs does seem like a leap into the unknown but we at Goodwin Malatesta are well prepared for this new change and will ensure that our clients maximise their costs recovery whatever format bill of costs is used.

Malcolm Goodwin will be very happy to meet you and your colleagues to discuss these and other expected changes to costs management and costs recovery.   Please feel free to contact Malcolm if we can assist.