Jackson LJ's Latest Proposals
On 28th January, Lord Justice Jackson spoke at the IPA Annual Lecture, rather ominously titled “Fixed Costs – The Time Has Come”.
It may come as no surprise therefore that he unveiled detailed plans for further implementation of fixed costs for all civil claims up to the value of £250,000.
The reasoning for this is that, “Remuneration on a time basis rewards inefficiency” and we have, “a civil justice system which is exorbitantly expensive”. Lord Justice Jackson also felt that, “the profession is now more willing to accept fixed costs than it was in the past”.
Contrary to his belief, the response was not positive, with leading Law Firms, Costs Lawyers, the Law Society and the Bar Council all voicing concerns. The main concerns were with regard to the extension of fixed costs limiting access to justice, which could also make pursuing many cases financially unviable.
The irony has not gone unnoticed that Lord Justice Jackson’s new proposals will make costs management, the key aspect of his previous reforms, redundant in the vast majority of cases. Jackson LJ himself used this as justification for his proposals, in that, “such a regime would dispense with the need for costs budgeting, which not everyone enjoys”.
However, the proposals do echo costs management in some ways, with the fixed costs being applied in stages equivalent to the phases used in the current Precedent H. The grid of fixed costs accounts for Solicitors’ and Counsel’s fees, but exclude VAT, other disbursements and enforcement proceedings.
Whether the proposals will come into force is now in the hands of the government, but Lord Justice Jackson believes that, “if the political will is there, this whole project could be accomplished during the course of this year”. This may seem unrealistic, but only time will tell!
By Laura Meyrick