With the day-to-day costs of litigation continuing to increase, there are a number of useful practical tips that can be applied to each case to keep costs to a minimum:
Is the appropriate person dealing with the case?
Query the grade of fee earner conducting the case. If the matter is of a routine nature is it necessary for a partner/grade A fee earner to be conducting the case. The successful party is unlikely to recover grade A rates unless the case is of a complex or unusual nature.
Are the claimant's solicitors local to the claimant?
Recoverable hourly rates are based upon the locality of the solicitor; if they are at the opposite end of the country to their client it does not necessarily follow that they can recover the hourly rate recommended by their local court.
How is the matter being funded?
If a case is being funded by way of a Conditional Fee Agreement with a success fee, that success fee will also apply to the detailed assessment proceedings.
If an opponent case is being funded by way of an After The Event insurance policy, seek confirmation as to whether the premium is fixed or is based upon a sliding scale dependant upon litigation stages. There can often be an enormous increase in the premium payable once proceedings are issued or the matter listed for trial.
Have costs estimates been realistic?
Any costs estimates or breakdowns provided by opponent solicitors can be used as comparison documents alongside bills submitted in any subsequent detailed assessment proceedings. If costs estimates are provided, retain that information for comparison against any final bills rendered. If the discrepancy is sufficient, consider making a challenge.
Has an offer of settlement been made?
If costs are awarded to an opponent then request a breakdown of the costs incurred. Once those costs have been considered in detail a sensible offer to settle those costs should be made. Such an offer should be made without prejudice save as to the costs of the detailed assessment proceedings, (Part 47.19 of the Civil Procedure Rules). If not accepted in full and final settlement, the money can be placed on account pending a detailed assessment hearing. This will stop interest accruing on any eventual costs awarded up to the offer amount and may provide some costs protection at any subsequent detailed assessment hearing.