Following the decision of Mrs. Justice Steyn DBE in Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust Vs AKC on 29th September 2021 we have prepared this briefing note to clarify how best to deal with the consequences of that decision pending updates to CostsMaster.
In that case, the bill of costs was split between a paper bill for work up to April 2018 and an electronic bill for work from that date. It was held that the paper bill was defective because it failed to identify the name and status of each fee earner and to identify the work done by each fee earner. The electronic bill provides this level of detail as standard but hitherto the paper bill has always identified work by “category”, such as “Partner” or “Grade A” etc. and the bills CostsMaster produces have always followed this format.
Following this decision, we are making changes to the program to give users the option of grouping work in a paper bill by fee earner and to also include further details of each fee earner such as their post qualification experience. Unfortunately, these changes are far from simple and will take time to implement and check. We are committed to including the changes in the next major release of CostsMaster which we are hoping to have available in two to three months’ time.
In the meantime, we have identified several workarounds that you can use.
Firstly, the simplest option is to put all work in the electronic bill. However, whilst the Hutton Committee designed the bill so that work prior to April 2018 did not have to have task, activity and expense information recorded for the bill to function correctly, the current rules can be interpreted as requiring task and activity information for all work in an electronic bill. If your historical work does not already have this information you should consider the wording of the Practice Direction carefully before taking this step.
If you wish to split work between an electronic bill and a paper bill (or indeed if your bill is solely a paper bill but needs to comply with this judgment), CostsMaster already has a method for creating a compliant bill. This requires you to create a Category for each fee earner with the Category descriptions set up as follows:
- Description 1 – Name, Status, PQE, Grade e.g. Paula Peters – Partner – Solicitor pqe 18 yrs – Grade A
- Description 2 – Name e.g. Paula Peters
- Description 3 – Initials e.g. PP
In Bill Settings the following selections should create a sensibly set out bill:
- Rates & Narrative – use Description 1 for Rates Utilised
- Procedural Steps – use Description 2 for attendances
- Party Work – Use Description 2 for attendances
- Documents – Use Description 3 for attendances and Description 1 or 2 for the summary.
If you are preparing a split bill, then you may well find that the above settings do not work well for the electronic bill. If this is the case then you will need to split the work between two separate CostsMaster files, one for each bill, with the fee earners and categories set up in the best way for each. In this respect we would recommend the following approach:
- Create a file for the work done prior to April 2018 setting up the fee earners and categories as suggested above. Enter or import your entries for that period
- Copy that file and rename it for the electronic bill so that you do not have to set up case details, parties etc. again
- Change the descriptions for the Categories so that they work for the electronic bill Legal Team Page
- Exclude the pre-April 2018 parts and add further parts for the post April 2018 work
- Enter or import your entries for the post April 2018 work done
- Create your paper bill from file 1
- Create your electronic bill from file 2
- Remove the exclusions in Parts from file 2 and export a Phase Breakdown which covers the whole claim.
It is clear that this recent Judgment’s interpretation of the rules has created a lot of extra work for Costs Lawyers. Our aim, as always, is for CostsMaster to make the preparation of bills as effortless for you as possible, but it takes a lot of effort behind the scenes to achieve this. We appreciate that these workarounds are not ideal, but they are only intended as an interim measure until the next release of CostsMaster, which will produce paper bills that comply with these changes with minimal intervention on your part.
If you have any questions about this, please do not hesitate to contact us.