‘There must be some way out of here – I can’t get no relief.’

Challenging-a-Bill-of-Costs

Prophetic words of Bob Dylan ( from All Along the Watch Tower) and never more so than in Venulum Property Investments Ltd v Space Architecture & Others [2013] EWHC 1242 (TCC),

This case demonstrates the approach that  court is now being obliged to take  to deadlines  under the new regime.

It also confirms the views aired recently  by the panel members at the recent Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL) national conference, where the eminent Costs Masters and Judges advised that  relief from sanction applications will be less likely to succeed  as missing of deadlines  would not be seen to be good reason.

So to save all the issues which would follow a strike out, Default Costs Certificate, etc., how to get relief?

The simplest way is to ensure that the fee earners are pre-diarising deadlines, critically within the Case management system, and act upon the reminders expediently.

When it comes to matters such as Costs Budgets, as soon as  the court notice arrives,  get the file to the Costs professionals as soon as possible – there’s a lot of work for both, them and the file handler, to do to ensure the budgets are supported with appropriate estimates from any experts to be instructed, and  the file handler needs to be planning from the start, who, why and what  may be needed for the evidence! So think ahead  (or back from) for  the deadlines, diarise and action on the reminder. 

For costs budgets think seven before the CMC, for filing and exchanging the budgets ( remember it’s a two way street and your opponent must also take action)

Then think seven days before that for the attempt to agree the budget with your opponent.

Then think a further seven days before that to ensure you have the experts’ estimates for their potential involvement.

And then allow at least a further seven days for your Costs Lawyer / Draftsman, to draft an appropriate phased costs budget  based on the information  given to him, and ensure that he is fully aware of the way  that the case is envisaged to proceed ( number and type of  witnesses, etc). Help the Costs professionals by  keeping a check on how long it takes  for your firm ( on average)  to execute certain taks such as  instructions to Counsel, or PTR preparation and advise him  with the data.

Don’t leave it until the last minute – costs budgets must be filed and exchanged not less than seven days  before the CMC, and attempts are supposed to be made to agree the budget or phases thereof with your opponent!

Miss that Costs Budget deadline, and the sanction is only the court fees will be allowed!

The message is clear to the professionals in costs, and if  the file is not passed  promptly , a poor budget to which you are tied by the court could result.     

For those who think that this may be a short lived storm in a teacup, look to Singapore where the basis of the rules evolved from.

There,  the system went from overload to very efficient within two years of implementing this type of working. 

Then again, it may be felt that  the costs professionals are running scared – those that think this, will , no doubt, need to make their applications  – and keep their fingers crossed at court!

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