The committee reviewing the guideline hourly rates is set to issue a short call for evidence next month.
HHJ David Hodge QC, the circuit judge member of the Civil Justice Council costs committee conducting the review, told last week’s Association of Costs Lawyers conference that the consultation will open at the beginning of November.
Lawyers will have a month to respond and will be asked for their views supported by evidence. Oral sessions will be held with selected professional bodies, organisations and firms in February 2014.
Hodge said the committee will seek information from practitioners on salaries, fee income, hours claimed and overheads for each grade of fee-earner in each geographical band, as well as the spread of income between different areas of work.
Guideline rates were last increased in 2010 and the committee has been charged with conducting a comprehensive evidence-based review and making recommendations to the master of the rolls by 31 March 2014 to assist him in setting new rates.
Judge Hodge said the current rates are effectively based on data from 2007 and there is a need to review the current costs of running a law firm. As evidence emerges, the impact of the Jackson reforms and alternative business structures will have to be considered too, he added.
Other issues include whether distinct rates should be set for significant areas of litigation – such as commercial, personal injury and clinical negligence – and rethinking the geographical bands.
Murray Heining, chairman of the Association of Costs Lawyers, said: ‘It is imperative that costs lawyers and solicitors ensure that the committee has all the information it needs to recommend realistic and viable new rates.’