Lawyers are developing a flair for the art of budgeting.

Cost budgeting has been in place now for well over a year in the multi-track, and for the most part, lawyers are getting to grips with it pretty well (unlike some members of the bench, who are apparently still closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their ears, and doing their best to pretend that budgeting doesn’t exist).

So as the practical experience of budgeting grows, what tips are emerging in terms of the best way to handle it?

Compass Law’s Tom Blackburn had some good snippets of advice on this at a recent event held by his firm, for commercial litigators.

For example, what is the number one thing that you really want to see in an opponent’s budget? Counsel’s fees in the ‘settlement’ box. That means the opposition is planning to take advice on what Part 36 offers to make or accept.

Blackburn also stressed the importance of the ‘assumptions’ part of the budget form. Making good use of this will give you scope to raise your budget later on. So it is a good idea to include some assumptions such as: ‘There will be no amended pleadings’; ‘Trial will be five days’; ‘Disclosure will involve X and be completed by X date’.

Another good one for the assumption box is to spell out, ‘We will be taking witness statements from X, Y and Z’. If X turns out to be unavailable when called upon, the extra expense involved in finding a new witness can be reflected in a revised budget.

From the bench, we are still seeing inconsistency over how budgets are approached, whether or not judges will look at hourly rates, whether they will look at individual phases of the budget or merely cast their eye over the global figure – and other issues.

But the solicitors’ profession has responded well to the task of budgeting, and the art of preparing a budget – whether performed by solicitors or by costs lawyers – is already becoming a new and essential skill. Mastering it will give a significant advantage to your client.

Rachel Rothwell is editor of Litigation Funding magazine

  • Practical experiences of budgeting will be under discussion at a Litigation Funding/Law Society event for commercial litigators on 20 October.