Almost one-third of litigators at top 200 firms have yet to review their compliance systems since last year’s Mitchell judgment, a new survey has revealed.
The research, by costs specialist Just Costs Solicitors, found 31% have not re-analysed internal systems to ensure compliance with rules, practice directions and court orders since November.
Master of the rolls Lord Dyson (pictured) used last year’s Mitchell judgment to usher in a new era of sanctions for those who did not comply with rules unless the breach was trivial and for good reason. The position was clarified in the Denton judgment last month when Dyson said parties had to show a breach was serious and significant to justify sanctions.
Despite the perceived harsh nature of the Mitchell judgment, the survey of 612 partners spread over 117 firms suggests that some lawyers were slow to respond to its implications.
Paul Shenton, managing director of Just Costs, said the results were ‘alarming’ and warned firms are potentially leaving themselves open to professional negligence claims by not responding to Mitchell.
‘Spending the time to put measures in place in order to ensure compliance is by far preferrable to running the risk of destroying a client’s case and being exposed to a negligence claim,’ he added.
The poll did find a pro-active response to Mitchell from the majority of the profession, with 56% of firms saying they are now more likely to outsource the responsibility of preparing costs budgets. The survey also found 55% of respondents did not believe costs management and budgeting – a key aspect of the Jackson reforms – were having a positive effect on case management.
But most were content that they would survive the new regime of costs management and budgeting, with just 10% seeing it as a threat to their firm.