TMC respectfully disagrees with Master Cook’s statement regarding whether costs lawyers should attend costs budgeting hearings

In recent months, the official status of the costs lawyer profession has continued to grow. We’ve recently re-launched our degree-level professional qualification, and have been formally recognised within the new guideline hourly rates (GHR) regime for the first time. It’s therefore unfortunate that Queen’s Bench Master David Cook has questioned our role in the costs budgeting process.

Speaking at a recent medico-legal conference organised by 7 Bedford Row, Master Cook stated that costs lawyers “should be discouraged from attending budgeting hearings save in exceptional cases.” He explained his position by stating that: “I need to hear from the solicitor with conduct of the case about why work is being done, what has actually been achieved for the spend to date, and why it is being said that the complexity or some other issue leads to the need for greater spend.” Master Cook then stated: “far too often, costs lawyers do not have the knowledge of the case or the experience to answer these important questions.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, we at TM Costings do not agree with Master Cook’s analysis. In much the same way that solicitors and barristers often attend court together, but then fulfil different functions when they arrive, we believe that the combined presence of solicitors and costs lawyers at budgeting hearings can enhance, rather than hinder, the budget approval process.

Our solicitor colleague may well be best-placed to explain why certain work has been done. However, because of our intimate involvement in drawing up a matter’s budget, costs lawyers are more likely to have a more detailed grasp of what specific costs have been incurred in delivering those objectives. And, while a solicitor will be able to explain why greater expenditure may be required, costs lawyers’ experience of assisting with previous cases can often help the court verify the robustness of these assertions. In addition, our specific training in costs procedure means we have a particular expertise in assisting the court in assessing whether costs incurred or anticipated are permitted and / or proportionate.

Of course, in many situations, it may not be necessary for a costs lawyer to attend a budgeting hearing. However, we believe that each party should be free to decide which legal representatives to send to such hearings, depending on the specific facts of each case. Already, PD 3E 2.2 (b) discourages unnecessary expenditure on court appearances, by limiting all recoverable costs of the budgeting and costs management to no more than two per cent of the approved or agreed budget.

In light of all of these facts, it is difficult to understand what benefit Master Cook’s suggestion would bring to the costs budgeting process.

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