Costs News

12 January 2022
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News in brief - 13.01.2022

Fill the vacancies on the ACL Council

Members should have received an email last week inviting nominations for the two vacancies on the ACL Council. Supporting the association and the profession is in everyone’s interests and the council is key to that. The closing date is noon on Friday 21 January.

There have been two nominations so far – Stephen Averill and Stephanie Donald – and, if more are received, a ballot of members will be held. Email enquiries@costslawyer.co.uk for more details.

 

Legal 500 to rank Costs Lawyers

As you may have seen just before Christmas, we were very pleased to report that, following an approach by the ACL, the Legal 500 directory has agreed to introduce Costs Lawyers as a new section in its main annual publication.

The section will assess the work handled by Costs Lawyers at both law firms and costs consultancy practices.

The Legal 500 said: “We are looking at the teams and specialists handling all aspects of legal costs, from budgeting and project planning through to recovery and costs claims.

“Relevant work includes the drafting of bills and schedules of costs, advising on costs strategies, and involvement in cost disputes between solicitors, including acting as mediators/arbitrators. The top-ranked firms will be involved in high-stakes litigation and will be able to display evidence of work on cases of particular significance.”

The deadline for submissions is 31 March and we would strongly encourage members to enter to ensure the section gets off to a good start. The guidelines and submission forms can be found here.

 

QC refused full brief fee after case settled

The fact a barrister had received his brief was not enough to justify paying his full £110,000 brief fee when it settled two days later and before he had started preparing for it, Deputy Master Campbell has ruled.

In Hankin v Barrington and Ors [2021] EWHC B1 (Costs), the brief fee was the only outstanding point in the detailed assessment of former Saracens rugby player Richard Barrington’s budgeted claim over a head injury he suffered.

A 13-day trial was due to begin on 15 March 2021, but the case settled on 24 February. Robert Weir QC was booked for the trial in November 2019, reserving the trial days and 16 preparation days, but the brief was only sent to him on 22 February 2021.

The claimant accepted that there was good reason to depart from the budget and there would be an “abatement” to the fee, noting that – after the case was removed from his diary on 1 March – Mr Weir was able to take on six consultations and two short hearings.

While the defendants argued that no brief fee should be payable, or in the alternative at most half, the claimant said the reduction should be no more than 25%.

Deputy Master Campbell said the fee was not justified, and “in so far as an hourly rate has been used, it is too high and reflects a sum for pre-eminence”.

He decided that a brief fee of £75,000 would have been reasonable as a starting point and that the suggested 25% abatement was insufficient given how soon after the brief’s delivery the case settled.

Deputy Master Campbell said a 50% abatement was appropriate to reflect the lost opportunity for Mr Weir to undertake other work, less a further £10,000 given the other work Mr Weir took on instead. This meant he allowed a brief fee of £27,500 plus VAT.

Paul Hughes (instructed by Irwin Mitchell) for the claimant. Mr Kirby (instructed by Goodwin Malatesta Costs Services on behalf of the Medical and Dental Union of Scotland MDDUS) for the defendants.

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