Surviving in practice

Looking through ‘The Community Legal Service (Funding) (Amendment No.2) Order 2011’ The Community Legal Service (Funding) (Amendment No.2) 2011 you wonder a) how on earth do people make sense of this, and b) how did we end up here. When starting out as a trainee costs draftsman, excluding criminal law, I had 2 tables to refer to – civil rates and family rates – which occupied a couple of pages in my now battered Cook on Costs. Now we have 16 pages. Its kind of like the Budget which used to occupy a few pages and now you need a wooden crate.

Why does a neurosurgeon in London get less per hour than one in the provinces? Why do we pay so relatively little to people dealing with vulnerable children?

Likewise, how complicated can they make the LASPO Bill. It emerged, following a panicked response from the MOJ that the amendments proposed by The House of Lords last week were purely to bring into the equation Collective Conditional Fee Agreements, which may otherwise have been omitted. It was not intended that the proposed disallowance of recovery between the parties of the success fee would be retrospective.

 

It is therefore imperative that law firms retain high quality costs lawyers and costs draftsmen to help firms wade through the quagmire of paperwork to remain in practice and remain profitable.  Why not inquire how we can help, book a seminar on costs related issues, or instruct us to sort out your case management issues.

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Is it the end for CFAs as we know them?

As the Legal Aid Sentencing & Punishment of Offenders bill aka LASPO makes its way through The House Of Lords various amendments have been proposed that have caused great alarm.

Either unwittingly, unknowingly or quite possibly deliberately, the bill has been amended such that success fees will no longer be recoverable with the application being retrospective. This means that it will not just apply to CFAs entered into after some date in April 2013, but will be for all cases where judgement has not been entered.  So that long running dispute started a few years ago and heading to trial in June 2013, from which you were expecting a handsome reward – possibly for your pension or nest egg that you richly deserve given the risk taken – will disappear. Ouch.

As always, here at Carlisle Legal Costing, we will try to keep you up to date, but this is potentially devastating news for your firms’ business model. Over the next few weeks we will be working hard to bring you alternative business models for your firm

Third Party Funding

We are currently on the look out for good quality business disputes who require some financial security.

Why would I need security, my client has a good case?

Many cases are perceived to be good, but they are subject to the same vagaries of the judiciary as all cases. I will never forget the case where the head of cleaning, responsible for ensuring there existed a safe system of cleaning and inspection, noted a banana skin on the stairs as she went up the staircase, but since her hands were full she admitted to making a mental note of picking it up on the way down. Sadly she came down faster than expected having slipped on the banana skin. The Defence thought they had no cause for concern as the cleaner was at fault. The DJ thought otherwise. On appeal, the Judge observed that he would have found for the Defence, but could see why the DJ sided with the Claimant and therefore the claim stood.

Why would you use Carlisle Legal Costing?

We have been involved in a wide cross section of litigation and have vast knowledge of case management and through our contacts are in the best position to put you in touch with a costs efficient solution to your funding needs.

The Problem Child Part 2

Regular readers may recall I recently raised the issue of the problem child – the client who costs you more money than you can hope to recover. What form does a problem child take?

Medical issues can be the cause – it is not always due to a ‘bloody minded client’. In one case, a client had an RTA which resulted in her sustaining moderate injuries but as the years went by the client became worse not better. The Judge at trial declared Munchhausen Syndrome By Proxy as a result of the mother’s influence and so the client who was expected to get a several figure sum, received a five figure sum instead and the solicitor client only recovered part of the costs.

A similar form may be that which is undermined by surveillance evidence, such was the case in Booth v Britannia Hotels. In that case, a chambermaid was claiming serious injuries but was caught out showing characteristics that were those of a fit and healthy person. Costs were awarded to the Claimant but on the basis that she only receive costs as if she were pursuing a case for £3500 as opposed to a six figure sum.

Can the relationship be recovered? In a case involving a large PI company, the client questioned whether anything was going to be done on his case following a site inspection several months earlier. This was deemed by the firm as ‘relationship broken down irrecoverably’ aka they did not think that the case was winnable.  The case was picked up by a small firm who were happy to take a risk and speak to the parties involved and a result was achieved.

In all these examples, the need for good solicitor-client relationships is highlighted. Know your client – pick up the phone instead of emailing or writing a letter. As a wise man once said however, if something important is worth saying, it is worth writing as it maintains a record of any difficulties and steps taken to resolve the issue. It also solves the issue that a local Judge keeps mentioning – what would happen if the solicitor were knocked down and someone else had to pick up the case?

Supervision is also an important weapon to protect from the problem child. Not all supervision is chargeable as profit costs, but those who remember the A + B factor in determining hourly rates will recall the A was for work done and overheads and B was for profit. Included in the A bit was an allowance for supervision, so use it. It not only offers the chance of an independent eye to spot the problem child, but also offers the chance to protect the firms’ name and reputation that a divisive  hacked of litigant may cause.

As a costs draftsman, why should I care about the problem child – because it affects costs recoverability. When I first started this job, all I argued about was 6 minute units – you should have read the report in 24 mins instead of 30 mins. Those were the days. Now, its fending off allegations of fraud, malingering, misrepresentation, defective retainers, exceeding estimates, after the event insurance. The stakes have gone up considerably. So to make my job easier, watch out for those problem children and sort it out immediately, so I can concentrate on arguing over those 6 minutes once more.