I was talking to a solicitor on Friday and was more than a little surprised to find out he had not yet read the proposed changes to CPR, was not aware of the fact that if you actually are entitled to a detailed assessment, you may get to the end and then have a load more knocked off for good measure, and that you were to be obliged to do a budget in multi track cases?
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“In modern litigation, with the emphasis on proportionality, there is a requirement for parties to make an assessment at the outset of the likely value of the claim and its importance and complexity, and then to plan in advance the necessary work, the appropriate level of person to carry out the work, the overall time which would be necessary and appropriate spend on the various stages in bringing the action to trial and the likely overall cost. While it was not unusual for costs to exceed the amount in issue, it was, in the context of modest litigation such as the present case, one reason for seeking to curb the amount of work done, and the cost by reference to the need for proportionality.”
These were the words of Judge Alton, sitting in Birmingham County Court in Stevens v Watts, June 2000, and were quoted in Jefferson v National Freight and Lownds v Home Office, both landmark decisions on proportionality by Woolfe LJ.
Twelve years later, when commenting on costs budgeting HHJ Simon Brown QC stated in an article in NLJ (13th April 2012) that:
“Like a quality surveyor, he will have to assess what resources he has, the grade of fee earner to be deployed to undertake tasks and estimate the number of hours they will take….”
So twelve years on, we are still hearing the same thing from the same court – is anyone listening? I was in Birmingham for a hearing not long after Judge Alton issued the above judgement and boldly relied on the same. ” Is that what she’s wittering on about in Chambers? Well this is my court” was the response received from that Learned Judge. It remains to be seen whether things change or not. One thing that is gathering momentum is costs management and costs control, with HHJ Simon Brown QC operating a successful pilot in the Birmingham TCC division and it is important when operating in this court to get your budgets and estimates right. Don’t hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to assist.