Master of the Rolls Sets 1 October 2021 Date for New Solicitors’ Guideline Hourly Rates

A fortnight ago, we reported (here) that the Civil Justice Council’s Guideline Hourly Rates (GHR) Working Group had not been ‘sufficiently persuaded to make substantial modifications’ to any recommendations previously put forward in its interim Working Report for the Consultation on Solicitors’ GHR.

As such, pending approval from the Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice, Sir Geoffrey Vos, rates were set to increase for all grades of fee earner across the country by between 7% and 35% ─ the first inflationary change in 11-years.

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Having taken the time to consider the Working Group’s Final Report in detail, Sir Geoffrey announced last Tuesday that he was ‘satisfied’ with their evidence and arguments and pencilled in an enforcement date for the new Guide to the Summary Assessment of Costs:

‘I plan to implement all the recommended changes from Friday 1 October 2021 and to that effect I have asked my officials and Master Gordon-Saker, Senior Costs Judge, to take forward the publication of the revised guide to summary assessment’.[i]

Sir Geoffrey was also aware that changes to working practices following the COVID-19 pandemic, along with the court modernisation programme, were likely to have fundamentally affected ‘the way in which the legal profession provides its services’.

The Working Group steered clear of making more ‘radical’ recommendations in its consultation, but nonetheless accepted that a deeper review into the impact of these factors on GHR would be required in due course, potentially within the space of 3-years.

Digesting the Master of the Rolls’ announcement last week, it is now clear that this review will take place sooner than expected:

‘Whilst I think there is likely to be merit in their concerns, I do not think that this should delay the necessary update of what is ultimately an advisory guide. I have, however, agreed with the Civil Justice Council that there will be a further review of guideline hourly rates reporting within 2 years’.

 

[i] Michael Cross, ‘New guideline rates from 1 October as MoR gives go-ahead’ (17 August 2021 Law Gazette) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/new-guideline-rates-from-1-october-as-mor-gives-go-ahead/5109546.article> accessed 19 August 2021.

Neil Rose, ‘MR approves new guideline hourly rates but plans further review’ (18 August 2021 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/mr-approves-new-guideline-hourly-rates-but-plans-further-review> accessed 19 August 2021.