How much for a legal punch up?

The problem

If I had a quid for everyone who ever said to me, “Christine, I can’t write you an open cheque” I would not need to work. Most people think going to court means endless bills and no idea what it will cost. Funnily enough, most of our cases don’t get into a court but for those that do, we have a strategy. More on that later.

Money bag

The Solicitors Regulation Authority

Eventually the Solicitors Regulation Authority caught up and solicitors had to provide estimates in advance so people knew what they were in for… or at least they thought they did. But estimates could be changed as the case went on…. and, of course, under our system winner takes all so the loser pays as much of the winners cost as the court thinks reasonable! Each side has to tell the other what it thinks it will spend but again, estimates can be changed.  So we are back to the ‘open cheque book’ scenario.

The courts

Then the courts caught up. In certain types of cases both parties have to tell the court, and the other party, fairly early on in the case, what they expect the
costs will be.  This form of costs budgeting is what His Honorable Lord Justice Jackson recommended in his report Review of Civil Litigation Costs (“the Jackson Report”). The court will give approval for that sum budgeted for – or less – and that is what
the winner can recover from the loser.Good plan. Every knows where they stand

Judge, court, hammer

…..That was until this month. The case was high profile: Sylvia Henry -v- News Group Newspapers Limited  [2013] EWCA Civ 19. It was Sylvia Henry’s libel claim for what was said about her in the press about “Baby P”. On a successful appeal from disallowance by the Senior Costs Judge of a claim for £300,000 over the approved amount (an increase of 56%) the Court of Appeal said that the Costs Judge should take into account all the circumstances of the case and the objectives of costs budgeting.

And so (even though the estimate given for one stage in the claim exceeded the approved amount by a factor of 18) Ms Henry got her costs paid!

A key part of the Jackson reforms that brought in costs budgeting was to keep things on an equal footing and to tackle uncontrolled and disproportionate costs.

So we are back where we started with no certainty.

In the right case we give clients that certainty back by agreeing, at the outset, a fixed fee for each stage of their case and a price for things that may happen but might not. Basically we will do what the Jackson reforms have tried to do for the losers. Then clients can properly budget.

If you want to know more about this funding model please get in touch.

Look out in future posts for guidance for business on how the Jackson reforms might affect you.


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