In the City of London, a battle is waging to prevent costs budgeting from bursting through the gates. City lawyers are seeking to hang on to the current exemptions from mandatory budgeting for big-ticket litigation – but the judiciary appears to have other ideas.
Lawyers in other areas of civil litigation have been vocal critics of the exemptions. They ask why budgeting should apply in a £2m clinical negligence claim, but not the commercial arena – particularly when the concept was piloted successfully in the Technology and Construction and Mercantile courts.
City lawyers’ arguments that big commercial cases need special treatment because they involve twists and turns, or because parties should not have to give away their tactics, will hold no sway at all – the same could be said of many types of cases. But the key question is whether budgeting, which is primarily a tool for keeping costs proportionate to the sums at stake, will actually bring any benefit to large commercial clients – or will it simply add a layer of unnecessary cost at the outset of the case? In top-end commercial cases, the damages sought are often so sizeable that even the heftiest of legal bills will still actually be in proportion.
Will that argument be enough to keep budgeting outside the City walls? We will find out this autumn.