Costs News

10 September 2014
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Oversight body approves J-Codes

The prospect of a new-style bill of costs has taken a step closer to reality, after a crucial phase in the development process received top-level sign off.

Earlier this week, the Legal Electronic Data Exchange Standard (LEDES) Oversight Committee ratified what have become known as J-Codes – the standardised codes that will ultimately categorise every activity within the civil litigation process for costs assessment purposes.

LEDES’ approval of the proposed J-Codes is crucial in ensuring that Jackson LJ’s plans for all claims for costs to be presented to the court by reference to ‘phases, tasks and activities’ can be delivered. LEDES’ membership largely comprises legal software vendors and large law firms – essentially, the key parties that will either develop or use the software on which the J-Codes are based.

Within the unified coding scheme set out in the recently approved J-Codes, specific top-level ‘phase codes’ will categorise all civil litigation work performed by its overall theme, such as disclosure or work related to the production of witness statements. More granular ‘task codes’ will then classify work by what is being done – such as reviewing the other party’s statement of case. Finally, ‘activity codes’ will set out how the work is being undertaken – such as researching a matter or drafting a document. ‘Expense codes’ will categorise disbursements, while ‘timekeeper/lawyer grade codes’ will categorise practitioners by reference to their seniority.

Ultimately, it is planned that the J-Codes will be adopted by the legal profession on an industry-wide basis, and at every stage of the civil litigation process. The intention is that task codes initially recorded by fee earners will be fed directly into the bills that will be presented to the court for assessment. The same task codes will also help generate phase codes, which largely replicate the existing components of Precedent H. However, in reality, the full scope of these changes is likely to take several years to implement. In addition, the report that accompanies the new J-Codes suggests they should initially only be used in cases in which Precedent H has already been adopted. Only after piloting would the use of J-Codes be extended to other areas of civil ligation, such as family cases.

Although the costs profession is likely to be significantly affected by the approval of the J-Codes and the resulting new format bill of costs, costs lawyers from across the country have played a significant role in the preparatory work that has led up to the codes’ adoption. Much of the initial groundwork for the new J-Codes was carried out by the ACL Jackson Working Group Committee, and, since the ACL produced its 2011 report on the subject, Modernising Bills of Costs, the role of costs lawyers in assisting with the development of the J-Codes has continued. Several costs lawyers have participated in, or advised, the Jackson Review EU-UTMBS Development Steering Committee – the body that ultimately devised the J-Codes that LEDES has now approved.

A copy of the approved J-Codes, and the report that accompanies it, is now available from the Uniform Task Based Management System website.

Comments

Sue Nash   25/09/2017 at 20:56

It appears that RNB is set for a HC appeal - watch this space! Meanwhile, RIP Solicitors Journal which - sadly - has just ceased publication after 180 years

News Flash   28/09/2017 at 12:18

Another pointless case, why resist a payment on account when your paying the opponents costs in the end anyway? these types of disputes should be a thing of the past!

MB   05/10/2017 at 13:18

Why has the focus returned to the SCCO "going completely digital". Was the electronic bill not extended to all Courts!

Dragon   12/10/2017 at 13:40

Well said Jim. Too often we see clinical negligence claims settle for say £2k only to be followed by a bill for say £50k. Thankfully there are some excellent costs lawyers out there who battle those costs down, but the situation remains outrageous.

Simon Mccarthy   13/10/2017 at 13:56

Dragon - your comment overlooks the fact that it is almost invariably your clients - the Defendants - who cause those scandalous costs by intransigently, and inexplicably, refusing to come to the negotiating table until too late, when the costs have already been racked up; it is their failure to take a realistic view to claims at the outset which necessitates the costs. This faux horror is therefore hard to stomach, especially when one considers the equivalent costs being incurred by government bodies (funded by us tax payers of course) often to the tune of 4-5 times the sums you mention, and the many Defendant costs draftsmen shelling peas for their piece of the pie. Sadly, it is the same old story of 'pay peanuts get monkeys' and, unless and until government wake up and start paying competent people to deal with claims pragmatically, the UK public purse will continue to haemorrhage billions of pounds that we can ill afford. Still, as long as it keeps Defendant costs draftsmen/lawyers in business?....

Northern Costs Monkey   13/10/2017 at 14:31

Just shows how ridiculous the whole budgeting process is. The reason firms generally don’t make applications to revise their budgets is because the bar set for varying them is absurdly high. No one even knows what a “significant development” is. A load of nonsense in my opinion. The situation we have now is that firms just don’t bother revising the budgets because in all likelihood it won’t be accepted. Meaning firms can be stuck with an “approved” budget that is a couple of years out of date, was drafted before the directions were even agreed, and is no longer fit for purpose. What should happen is that budgets should be drafted after the first CMC, and there should be a rule put in place that parties are able to freely revise a previously agreed or approved budget every six months, regardless of significant developments, with the updated budget to be considered at a costs management conference listed for a later date. That after all was the whole point of budgeting, was it not? Pragmatic costs management?

Simon   16/10/2017 at 16:47

I find this whole issue completely unnecessarily. Independent Midwives had commercial insurance suitable for their needs, however to try and save money they chose to try and become self-funding and cancelled their insurance without fully understanding the risks and exposures. I cannot see why it is in the public interest to bring a JR (and why the costs should be capped) when commercial solutions were available, however the issue is that as a group they didn't want to pay the costs of commercial insurance.

Dragon 2   18/10/2017 at 08:07

Great points Simon. Fully agree. Courts are fully aware of how these matters are conducted by those representing defendant. Surely though the money for damages and costs comes out of the medical suppliers' insurers' account, not tax pot nor nursing fund. Maybe that's why there is such a drive to extend the fixed costs regime to clin neg claims. Just a thought......

Mel B   19/10/2017 at 12:05

'Like' Simon McCarthy's comment

Cath Hart   21/10/2017 at 09:32

In reply to Simon's comment (which I thought at first meant this situation could be resolved) my understanding is that professional indemnity insurance for independent midwives has been withdrawn, but even if available the premium would be in the region of 20-30k annually (reference https://www.aims.org.uk/Submissions/nmc.htm) so I would disagree that it was cancelled to "save money" - these premiums exceed many of the midwives salaries so it was simply unworkable without government assistance. When professional indemnity insurance became mandatory under the EU directive in 2014 the independent midwives did appeal to the government for funding but this was rejected due to the low number of women involved so was not thought to represent value for money for the taxpayer. (reference: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/independent-midwives-insurance-options-outlined).

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