The Law Society today urged the government to delay the extension of the RTA Portal to new civil litigation areas – which will mean fixed fees for all claims worth up to £25,000 – warning that law firms may not be ready for the change.
The Ministry of Justice has said solicitors will have had ample notice of new rules.
The government intends to go ahead with the extension of the claims portal to cover employer and public liability claims from 31 July. The Civil Procedure Rules Committee met this morning to sign off the rules, which are now in the hands of ministers.
The Society is also concerned the government may announce fixed costs for defendants and interlocutory hearings before the end of this month.
President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said: ‘These far reaching changes to civil litigation costs are to be implemented in less than four weeks’ time. The government appears to be hell-bent on disruption, by failing to give the profession the notice they reasonably need.
‘I have asked [justice minister] Helen Grant to delay implementation so that solicitors and their clients, including defendants, can properly prepare for these changes and achieve a smooth transition.’
There appears to be little appetite for a delay from the MoJ, with the department seemingly determined to bring litigation costs down and bring more cases into the scope of the online portal.
A spokesman said: ‘These complaints are disappointing, as the legal sector has been aware of the plans for 18 months and has been closely involved in the shaping of the rules – they have been consulted throughout the process.
‘The draft rules were made available in good time and the direction of travel has been clear. There is no legitimate reason for lawyers to claim they are unprepared.’