Predictions for the year ahead

This time of year, is always good for reflecting back on the past 12 months, but such reflections aren’t worth much if you aren’t able to use them to shape the forthcoming 12 months. As such, I have taken a quick trip to Barnard Castle to sharpen my eyesight and gazed into my Christmas crystal snow globe to see what the new year holds.

Hourly rates

As can be seen from the number of references to hourly rates within our very own 12 days of Costsmas, hourly rates have been a particularly hot topic this year. I can only see that this trend will continue into 2021. The impact of the decisions in PLK and Cohen cannot be understated. The Judiciary have taken the initiative in highlighting that, the now decade old, guideline hourly rates are struggling to reflect the current legal environment. With the guideline hourly rate review also progressing it is clear that hourly rates will remain a hot topic well into 2021.

Fixed Costs

Given the amount of time that is likely to be taken up with the ongoing review of the guideline hourly rates in 2021 it seems paradoxical to then mention its antithesis. However, we are now 18 months since the Ministry of Justice’s Fixed Recoverable Costs Consultation closed. There has been little word from the MOJ following the consultation, but it must be noted that in that time there has been a general election, a transition period from the EU, and a global pandemic. It may well be that 2021 will be the year when these proposals may come back to the fore. However, whilst we may have more information about the Government’s intentions soon, it is still likely that there will be a grace period before the measures come into effect.

Electronic hearings

Dealing with matters electronically was a gradual trend moving at glacial speeds at the start of 2020 with the rollout of e-filing at the SCCO. However, the pandemic has acted as a catalyst for embracing working remotely, and subsequently, conducting hearings remotely by video or telephone. There may have been mishaps and connection issues at the start, but, through necessity, these issues are becoming rarer and rarer. It makes sense, certainly whilst the tier system remains and vaccines are gradually rolled out, that this will continue to be the norm for the first part of 2021 and, in my opinion, it would be surprising to see any reduction in their use even when the circumstances no longer necessitate it.

Solicitor/own client disputes

From HH Law to Belsner v CAM it is clear that there has been an increase in solicitor/own client disputes fueled by the changes introduced under LASPO. An earlier blog dealt with the recent decision in Belsner and I understand that an Appeal has been lodged. So, this is another area to ‘watch this space’ in 2021.

Budgeting

Finally, I expect that there will be further judicial guidance to supplement the changes to the costs management rules. In particular, it will be interesting to see the approach the Court’s will take with dealing with variations of a Budget using the new Precedent T and what sanctions shall be imposed if there is a failure to vary a Budget. Furthermore, expect the phrase ‘oppressive behaviour’ to start appearing in correspondence as parties start to look at other ways of point scoring during litigation.

It just leaves me to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and costs-filled new year!

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