Costs News

11 February 2016
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News in brief 11th February 2016

Diamond hits the headlines

Costs Lawyer Jim Diamond generated headlines around the world last week with his report The Price of Law, published by right-wing think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies.

In it, he said that with hourly rates for a partner at a top London firm now exceeding £1,000 – “the highest level ever recorded” – the cost of legal services was “high enough to restrict access to law, particularly for smaller business clients for whom bills can be prohibitive”.

Mr Diamond cited three reasons for the escalating rates: the increasing complexity of the UK tax and legal systems; a lack of transparency on legal costs, which “allows top law firms virtual control over their prices”; and a lack of competition, evidenced by “the remarkable similarity in the rates charged by each of the magic circle law firms”, although he said there was no evidence of collusion.

He argued that hourly billing was “outdated and unsustainable” and urged the government to give “full consideration” to Lord Justice Jackson’s recent call for the widespread introduction of fixed fees.

In response, Alasdair Douglas, chairman of the City of London Law Society, said: “The top commercial law firms operate in an intensely competitive market – domestically and internationally – with many firms vying for the same work. There is no cartel of a few UK firms sharing the work out between them…

“Clients and their lawyers negotiate the appropriate rates and method of charging depending on the work being done; hourly rates, fixed-fee agreements, discounts, premiums and the provision of secondees all being part of the mix.

“The typical City firm/client relationship is extremely well-informed; companies’ in-house counsel, many of whom are ex-City lawyers, are very experienced and only pay where they think they receive value for money. The clients will take their instructions elsewhere if they are dissatisfied and can manage any complaints about the pricing in the same manner.”

Dyson to retire

The Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson (pictured), is to retire this October after three years in the post. At 73, he could have stayed in post another two years. Breaking the story this week, The Times suggested that the reason was the “extensive” administrative burden of the role.

Immigration tribunal has the power

The Upper Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) does have the power to make wasted costs orders in proceedings that began in the First-tier Tribunal prior to the commencement of new procedural rules on 20 October 2014, it ruled last week. The tribunal’s ruling, which can be found here, said it was not a “straightforward” issue to determine.

Student election reminder

A reminder to student members that nominations for the latest round of elections to the Student Council close at 4.30pm this Friday.

The Student Council is responsible for representing the voice of the students regarding their own learning and student experience together with the wider remit of contributing to the future of the ACL by representing the student body on issues relating to education, public relations and policy.

For more details, see the email that went out recently or contact studentcouncil@costslawyer.co.uk.

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