Master of the Rolls Pledges to ‘Revolutionise Civil Costs’ Without a ‘One-Time Generational’ Review

On 25 November 2021, the Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, gave the keynote address at the Association of Costs Lawyers’ (ACL) annual conference.

Legal Futures subsequently reported that he had used this platform to signal his intention to ‘revolutionise civil costs’ through a wide-ranging Civil Justice Council (CJC) review of costs issues at all levels:[i]

‘It’s extremely important that we take the opportunity now to consider whether the ways in which we handle costs and costs shifting are fit for a modern justice system delivering dispute resolution digitally’.

Having already asked the Council to embark on this review, the judge announced that the non-departmental public body would not act with any ‘preconceived ideas’, but would use its flexibility, agility and insight to move quickly and make ‘incremental reforms’ to the system that ‘actually deliver a better service to the public’:

‘We can’t do that if we do nothing for 10 years and then get some big judge to put his or her name to a review, spending five years publishing it and then ignoring it for another five years before implementing it, by which time it’s become massively out of date’ – hinting at the Woolf and Jackson Reports, both of which emanated from ‘one-time generational reviews’.

Taking ‘a completely fresh look at the costs of civil litigation’, the review will carefully consider the development and use of pre-action portals (PAP), solicitors’ guideline hourly rates (GHR), costs budgeting and so-called ‘money no object’ litigation. It will also look holistically at how attitudes surrounding costs recovery and the need for summary and detailed assessment are changing due to:

  1. The move towards remote hearings;
  2. The move towards an entirely digital online system for civil, family and tribunal cases; and
  3. The move towards an extended system of fixed recoverable costs, encompassing most money cases valued at up to £100,000.

 

[i] Neil Rose, ‘Master of the Rolls fires starting gun on civil costs revolution’ (26 November 2021 Legal Futures) <https://www.legalfutures.co.uk/latest-news/master-of-the-rolls-fires-starting-gun-on-revolution-in-civil-costs> accessed 2 December 2021.