Going local - costs budgeting in the County Courts

Nichola Evans of Browne Jacobsen in Manchester reports on the inconsistent application of the “new rules” in the county courts in her latest article for the New Law Journal.

We all know the new cost budgeting rules. We all know the senior courts are taking a “robust view” in terms of applications made under CPR 3.9 for relief from sanction but what is happening in local county courts? Is there a consistency in approach?

The stories which are emerging suggest that many local courts have their own practices and customs which means if you don’t usually operate in those courts you could get caught out. Practitioners are swapping stories and legal blogs are full of examples of local courts operating different practices.

War stories

• In my local courts in Manchester the judges have said that they spend on average 12–14 minutes scrutinising the cost budgets submitted by the parties.

• Another county court just down the M62 says that its average is an hour.

• At least one county court insists advocates at the first case management conference (CMC) should have their laptops with them to record any alterations to cost budgets there and then.

• It is reasonably common for solicitors to turn up at the first CMC with a costs lawyer so that the costs lawyer can deal with any budget enquiries.

Stories from some of the London courts suggest costs lawyers are denied a voice at hearings and that their comments have to be channelled through the solicitor attending the hearing. This clearly increases the time and cost involved in the first CMC.

• There are stories of courts refusing to deal with the cost budget if the person signing the statement of truth is not there.

Are firms who have implemented a risk management procedure whereby cost budgets are approved by supervising partners to be expected to send that partner on every costs management hearing where they have signed off the budget?

• Gordon Exall’s blog (Civil Litigation Brief) recently reported on a case where a district judge struck out a budget because the statement of truth was in square brackets and a further case where the wrong statement of truth was used resulting in another strike out.

For more war stories and anecdotal evidence, see the full article in New Law Journal here.

Nichola Evans is a partner specialising in commercial dispute resolution, litigation funding issues including ATE insurance and third party funding at Browne Jacobson.

The full article was first published by New Law Journal on 19 February 2014.

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