As the Gazette has previously warned, solicitors need to ‘brace themselves’ 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 of this new bill has been an almighty flop – with barely any participation from the profession. Can you blame lawyers? They were hardly about to willingly fling themselves on board the latest in a never ending procession of costs reforms; not until they were forced to do so.
The 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find themselves forced to grapple with yet another reform – and a spreadsheet that is (reportedly) bigger than their outdated computer screens will allow them to view.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, it is just yet another headache for lawyers to deal with – and that is certainly how the profession views it.
Given that no lessons were learned from the failed pilot, the introduction of the new bill is also unlikely to run smoothly.
Lawyers will be expected to prepare for the new bill even though 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.
In other words, it’s just another day in the world of costs.