Jackson LJ’s final report on civil costs, in January 2010, made two key recommendations:
A new format of bills of costs should be devised, which will be more informative and capable of yielding information at different levels of generality.
Software should be developed which will (a) be used for time recording and capturing relevant information and (b) automatically generate schedules for summary assessment or bills for detailed assessment as and when required. The long-term aim must be to harmonise the procedures and systems which will be used for costs budgeting, costs management, summary assessment and detailed assessment.
Jackson LJ set out specific criteria for a new bill format. In contrast to bills in the present format (“which are turgid to read and present no clear overall picture”) the bill should provide a more transparent explanation about the work done in various time periods and why it was done. It should offer a user-friendly synopsis of the work done, how long it took and why. It should be inexpensive to prepare (hence the proposal for automatic generation).
Bills should be prepared by reference to phases, tasks and activities (the structure since adopted in Precedent H for budgeting purposes), summarising costs and disbursements by task and phase and setting out tasks in each phase in chronological order.
The Hutton Committee was created to devise a new form of bill, capable of being completed either manually or (preferably) automatically. To meet the Jackson criteria, the bill had to offer “high-level” summaries of the costs claimed along with the facility to “drill down” into as much detail as may be needed for detailed assessment.
This evolved through pilot schemes to become Precedent S, a bill in the form of a selfcalculating spreadsheet incorporating the phase/task/activity structure. A working spreadsheet Precedent S, with and without sample data, is included in the online version of the Part 47 Practice Direction: https://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/ rules/part-47-procedure-for-detailed-assessment/practice-direction-46-costs-special-cases2