As you are all aware the Jackson Report was not favourable of the current format Bill of Costs, stating it was expensive and cumbersome to draw, not easy to digest, did not make use of available technology and gave insufficient information in respect of the documents time, that usually being the most contentious item and usually contained mismatches between recorded time and bills.

I do not know whose Bills Jackson was looking at but can categorically say it was definitely not one of ours!

The upshot of this being a new format Bill of Costs to conform with the Precedent H hierarchy of Phases.  To provide more transparency, user friendly synopsis of work done and be inexpensive to prepare.

Work has now been completed on the first draft bill of costs adopting the recommended J-Codes.

j-Codes being:-

  1. Phase e.g. witness statement
  2. Task  – what’s being done e.g. preparing own side’s statement
  3. Activity – how it’s being done e.g. attending witness

Jackson prescribed that software be developed which will:-

A             be used for time recording and capturing relevant information

B             automatically generate schedules for summary assessment or bills for detailed assessment as and when required

The long term aim being to harmonise procedures and systems which will be used for all types of costs management.

The Bill has been developed by a Committee and presently uses Microsoft Excel but once finalised will utilise XML which can easily be adapted to a wide range of billing systems to Excel.

It is hoped that Solicitors will (if they are not already in possession of) purchase new software which records their time spent in J-Codes, which can subsequently be imported into the Bill of Costs software.

Financially, the Bills should be quicker to prepare thus lowering the costs, but that is only if the recording of time spent by way of J-Codes can be imported into the new bill of costs.  However, if it cannot, the bill will have to be prepared from the file of papers and time ledger in the usual way, with the Costs Lawyer/Draftsman connecting the time spent to the relevant J-Code.

The Bills will also still require a detailed narrative and chronology and some will have their own quirks e.g. interim statute bills to be taken into account or partial costs orders, the list of same being endless.

The Bill is specifically designed for electronic use, the printed version does not have all of the columns of the electronic version (it simply is not printable in full), but obviously both can be served.  This does mean possible further investment should you wish to discuss same away from your PC, the suggestion being take a lap-top and possibly a spare one for the Judge!

Practice Direction 51L came into force on 1.10.15 providing for the new Bill to be used in any Court in England and Wales, this is at present voluntary.  A mandatory pilot will probably start in the SCCO on 1 October 2016 but be warned those who seek to avoid this may not by issuing elsewhere.

The advice is to start logging your time spent in J-Codes, sooner rather than later.  Easier said than done if you cannot afford new software, although as said previously we can prepare the bill from the file as we already do.

Jackson LJ in his Harbour Lecture of 14.5.15 “Confronting Costs Management”, said that the new bill is seen as a partial answer to some Judges dissatisfaction with costs budgeting.

It appears that the proposals will be adopted and they’re here to stay, so we all need to embrace them, it will be a learning curve, let’s do it together.

Please send any feedback and queries to Sterling Costs.

To view the Model Form of the Bill of Costs together with guidance notes take visit https://ledes.org/model-form-bill-of-costs-for-england-and-wales/