A leading academic has warned solicitors that judges will grant no more latitude to those who default on their case budgets.
Professor Dominic Regan of City Law School told the Liverpool Law Society conference that firms exceeding their budget will be ‘in the deepest of trouble’.
Regan, who assisted Lord Justice Jackson with his civil justice reforms, said judges were under instruction to clamp down harshly on excess costs until solicitors’ behaviour permanently changes.
Under the Jackson reforms, which came into force in April, all parties except litigants in person must file and exchange budgets in advance of litigation. Thereafter the court will control the parties’ budgets in respect of recoverable costs and will not allow them to depart from the agreed budget unless satisfied there is good reason.
Regan pointed to two High Court cases that had come up since April, Venulum Property v Space Architecture and Fons HF v Corporal Ltd, as proof of a new hardline stance from the bench.
In the first case, an extension for time to serve the particulars of claim was refused. In the second instance, Judge Pelling (pictured) granted only a 24-hour extension to serve witness statements and said he had ‘come very close’ to refusing outright.
Regan said: ‘In these recent cases judges were kind, but this is absolutely the last chance saloon for forgiveness from judges.’
Regan warned that the Henry decision in January, when the Court of Appeal allowed for an overspend in the costs budget, was ‘dangerously deceptive’.
‘It created the erroneous impression that a party which outspends the approved budget can still recover full costs. If only,’ he added.