Solicitors are braced for a new electronic bill of costs from October. The ‘new format’ bill will be compulsory for all detailed assessments in the Senior Courts Costs Office.
Predictably, the voluntary pilot flopped – with barely any participation from the profession. Can you blame lawyers? They were hardly about to voluntarily fling themselves into the latest in a never-ending procession of costs reforms.
One saving grace of the mandatory new bill is that it will be compulsory only for SCCO assessments. So we will not see computers being hurled from the windows of court buildings throughout the land, as regional costs judges find themselves forced to grapple with yet another reform – and a spreadsheet that is (reportedly) bigger than their obsolete computer screens will allow them to view.
In theory, the new bill will not need fancy software, and it should bring efficiency benefits in the longer term. But initially at least, the profession views it as yet another headache for lawyers to deal with.
Given the failed pilot, the introduction of the new bill is unlikely to run smoothly. Lawyers will be expected to prepare while other reforms, such as Jackson LJ’s fixed costs review, are ongoing. These could potentially wipe out detailed assessments entirely for a great swathe of claims.
To sum up then – just another weary week in the world of costs.