ADMINISTRATIVE COURT AWARDS NOTIONAL COSTS: THE PRICE TO PAY FOR THE ABSENCE OF A COSTS SCHEDULE
There is an interesting exchange at the end of the judgment of Mr Justice Dove in The Queen on the application of the Solicitors Regulation Authority -v- Imran  EWHC 2572 (Admin).
This is an example of the pitfalls surrounding costs. I have included guidance from PJ Kirby QC below. PJ and I are the lecturing on the topic of litigation, costs and pitfalls on the 22nd September 2015, Hardwicke Building, Lincolns Inn, London. The lecture is 90 minutes short and is to raise money for the Billable Hours appeal. Details of how to book are available here.
The SRA appealed an order of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The Tribunal had suspended a solicitor from practice for two years. The SRA argued that this was excessively lenient and the court should substitute an order striking off the respondent. The judge rejected the SRA’s application.
THE EXCHANGE AND THE JUDGMENT ON COSTS
MR WILLIAMS: Yes. First of all, the practical point that the rules are clear and well known. There has been no schedule served upon us, and consequently no notice other than by implication that an application would be made. Secondly, the appeal in my submission was properly brought in the public interest. The SRA is a public interest regulator. The profession supports it financially. These cases are important and this case falls into that category. In my submission it would be inhibitive that the SRA – – if they were discouraged from pursuing such appeals as this for the benefit of the public and the profession. There is that aspect to it. And, secondly (sic), the fact that these matters should be dealt with on the day by summary assessment, not putting the parties to the further costs of detailed assessment. That is the whole basis of the regime.
MR TREVERTON-JONES: I have nothing in response. Ordinarily, had there been a schedule of costs, I would submit that the ordinary rules should apply and that the costs should follow the event in this court which is well known on these appeals. Therefore, I invite you to order that the SRA pay Mr Imran’s costs, those costs to be the subject of detailed assessment.
MR JUSTICE DOVE: I am not willing to order detailed assessment in this case because it seems to me that is simply going to add further to the costs of the parties. I also take the view there is some force in what Mr Williams says about public interest in these appeals being heard. However it does seem to me that the respondent having been successful, I should assess costs. And I am going to do so in a notional figure of £5,000. That is the best I can do. Adding to the costs of the proceedings by ordering detailed assessment seems to me to be quite disproportionate.
GUIDANCE FROM A COSTS QC
I have written on the topic of summary assessment before. It is prudent to remember the guidance given by PJ Kirby Q.C. in the guidance section of that earlier posts.
“Having given a number of seminars about maximising the recovery of costs on summary assessment my number 1 tip would be same as DJ Lethem – make sure that counsel or any other advocate is properly briefed in relation to costs. What is the point of winning if your client still ends up considerably out of pocket because all your efforts were put into making sure that counsel was sufficiently briefed in relation to the substance of the application and only an afterthought was given to the question of how the costs are justifiable.”
- The summary assessment of costs; useful links
- The Senior- Court Costs Office Guide to summary assessment is an essential starting point
- Clarion have a succinct summary of all the key points in a summary assessment
- Legal Costs Negotiators Ltd have a summary of recent case law on summary assessment
- This article by District Judge Letham on maximising costs on summary assessment is now 12 years old, but the points are still highly relevant
- There is an explanation of summary assessment in Jackson LJ’s 8th lecture in the implementation programme.
- Litigation Futures carries a report of a case where the costs were summarily assessed at £351,000
- The New Law Journal reports a case where the judge refused to summarily assess costs which were disproportionate.