The Legal Practice Support Marketing team have recently been working on a digital marketing project with Beacon Law, a Manchester based Personal Injury law firm who specialise in all types of personal injury claims, such as accidents at work, occupiers liability claims, claims against local authorities and RTA/ car accidents. We have worked alongside the Directors of Beacon Law to develop a marketing campaign which would drive more potential clients to Beacon Law’s website using a range of marketing strategies.
Why Did Beacon Law Require Our Assistance with Personal Injury Marketing?
Beacon Law had a large client base prior to our involvement, obtained through various methods. However, Directors Mark Brierley and Karen Sproston recognised that there was potential to reach more clients by investing in a digital marketing strategy.
Karen was particularly interested in developing and changing the appearance of the website to make it more user friendly and to incorporate more of the business personality into the website. Both Directors were aware of the benefits of using social media to reach more potential personal injury clients; however, like many other busy Solicitors, they simply did not have the time to invest in developing an effective social media strategy.
The Personal Injury Marketing Services Provided by Legal Practice Support
Our personal injury marketing project with Beacon Law is ongoing and we continue to provide legal marketing services to the firm to help increase their visibility, conversion rates and lead generation over time. The services we have provided to date include:
- A complete website revamp – As the Directors of Beacon Law were not completely satisfied with their existing website, we agreed to a complete makeover within their marketing package. They felt that the website they had in place was a bit dull, and that it required a more colourful design to inject more personality and to keep potential clients engaged in the services which they were offering.
We worked closely with the Directors and provided a range of colourful designs based on their ideas. When the Director decided on the design which best suited their brand, we applied the design to all pages on the website and added colourful graphics and images to complement the design.
- Technical SEO – There are many issues on a website which could drastically affect ranking positions within search results, including errors, slow loading pages and broken links.
The first thing we did when we started working on the Beacon Law website was obtain an SSL certificate to ensure security for visitors on the website. We also completed a full technical SEO audit and dealt with any issues on the site. As part of our marketing package, we complete regular technical SEO audits on the website to identify any issues ensure the website is performing well.
Finally, we ensured that the hosting provider was complimentary to the traffic we expected to the website, to ensure optimal speed for all types of users, from those utilising computers to those on mobile. The previous hosting provider caused form submission issues, which meant that any enquiry was not being rapidly processed and this needed to be remedied to ensure all prospective clients were promptly responded to.
- SEO Content Update – Content is one of the most important elements on a website. Incorporating Search Engine Optimisation into all content on a website will help to ensure that your target audience finds your website when using a search engine.
Content can include written content as well as images and multimedia. We ensure that all images and videos on the website are optimised in a way which will ensure page loading speed is as quick as possible. We also optimised all of the existing written content within the landing pages and service page, and added new written content where required.
- Keyword Research – We identified a list of the best keywords which Beacon Law should target within their written content to help compete with other solicitors in this practice area. We then came up with a plan on how to best target these specific keywords by adding new pages and writing blog posts.
- Provision of Regular Written Content – To assist in the improvement of search engine ranking positions, Legal Practice Support now provide regular, SEO friendly, written content in the form of blog post articles and service pages. We use the keywords identified and produce content with the intention of targeting specific keywords.
- Social Media Management – As Beacon Law already had Facebook and Twitter accounts, we decided to further improve their scope for social media marketing by creating an Instagram profile for the business. We now schedule regular posts on behalf of Beacon Law to attract new visitors to the site and to keep potential clients updated on the services they offer. Regularly linking to the Beacon Law website on social media has also assisted in the improvement of search engine rankings by driving more traffic to the website.
What Has This Personal Injury Marketing Campaign Achieved?
Since the initiation of this project, we have managed to create a more attractive and engaging website for Beacon Law. We have seen an increase in traffic to the website as the result of improved visibility on search engines. We did this by improving rankings for keywords and adding pages to target new keywords. Using social media, we have generated new followers to all pages by posting regular content and have kept the existing audience updated and engaged in the services which Beacon has to offer.
Although the website’s visibility has increased, personal injury law is a very competitive area and, thus, more time, hard work, and patience will be required to improve search engine rankings further and to target more keywords. Search Engine Optimisation is something which should be viewed as a medium to long-term strategy and generally speaking, results will begin to arise after 3 – 6 months. Even when we reach the top-ranking positions on search engines, we must ensure that the Beacon Law website is kept updated to stay there.
How Can Legal Practice Support Assist Your Firm?
If you are a personal injury lawyer requiring assistance with your marketing strategy, feel free to get in touch with us today by contact our marketing manager at email@example.com, or contact our marketing experts directly on 01204 397302. Legal Practice support assist all types of law firms and legal service providers by providing effective, affordable digital marketing packages.
The incorporation of a great marketing strategy is necessary in the current legal world as the increasing competition in a crowded market, and from larger law firms with significant resources can make it difficult to make your law firm stand out from the crowd.
The experienced marketing team at Legal Practice Support provide marketing services to help increase your firm’s online presence and create increased awareness of the legal services provided by your business. The services we provide include the following:
- Web Design and Development
- Search Engine Optimisation – An essential strategy for legal marketing, used to place your business website pages in an optimal place in the unpaid results section returned by a search engine such as Google.
- Content Creation – The type of SEO friendly content creation services we offer include article writing for your website blog and the creation of new webpages and updating of current content on existing webpages to ensure they meet SEO requirements.
- Social Media Management – Our marketing packages can include the creation of social media profiles for your business as well as the management of your social media profiles with the creation of regular posts to drive more people to your website and improve your online presence.
- Pay Per Click (PPC) Ads – This may include Google Ads campaigns, Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, Instagram Ads, or Linkedin Ads. We would usually request that the client provides an additional budget for the use of a PPC campaign.
We work with businesses of all shapes and sizes in any legal sector, so whether you are a family lawyer, employment solicitor, personal injury attorney, or a firm who deals with multiple areas of law, get in contact with us today. We also provide our services for non-solicitors and those who provide legal services, such as Costs Draftsmen, Legal IT consultants, law firm insolvency firms and many others.
For more information on the marketing services we provide, please contact our Marketing Manager, Stacey Owens via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Legal Practice Support currently offer legal costs assistance, Proclaim Development, IT services and Legal Marketing Services, as well as having significant contacts in the legal market to assist in any areas of interest.Read More
Law firm profitability is essential for effective business development and growth. The legal market and legal service industry have faced many difficulties in the past decade with recent law reforms, fixed costs, Brexit, and Covid-19. The oncoming recession as a result of the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic is set to bring more financial hurdles to be faced by businesses of all shapes and sizes, including those in the legal industry.
When it comes to overcoming those financial hurdles, the bottom line is that effective law firm management and efficiency of legal operations is required for maximising your law practice profitability. We have set out some advice on how to improve law firm profitability to help you stay on top.
Management of Your Legal Costs
All legal departments must deal with the issue of managing and settling legal costs at the end of each case, regardless of their practice area. Effective management of legal costs will help to limit your overheads and maximise the profits received through legal costs following the settlement of a claim. But a mistake often made is that costs should only be considered on conclusion of a case. It is imperative that costs are considered from the outset of a case, ensuring the retainer is properly constructed, and success fee is calculated in a compliant manner with bespoke risk assessment, and setting appropriate hourly rates dependant upon the likely complexities/value of any claim/instruction.
Successful negotiation of legal costs, such as Solicitor’s hourly rates will help to ensure that you are obtaining maximum profit from each case. Using an experienced Costs Draftsman to assist you in drafting your Precedent H, Bill of Costs and Replies to Points of Dispute will significantly assist your firm in recovering the maximum amount of legal costs and disbursements. They can also assist you through the process of Detailed Assessment. Hard work in conducting a case can however, be undone by failure to properly manage costs from the outset (such as setting appropriate hourly rates, or to adequately budget costs).
The unsuccessful conclusion of a case is an inevitability for all law firms. Following such an outcome, the losing party is required to pay the winning party’s legal costs. Effective negotiation of the winning party’s Costs Budget and Bill of Costs will significantly assist in limiting your outgoings following a failed case, and ensuring adequate ATE protection in place is also imperative.
Working Digitally To Increase Law Firm Profitability
Going paperless can be a difficult transition; however, the benefits of working digitally are endless. A digital case management system will increase the efficiency of all staff by reducing the need for file handlers to rummage through mountains of paperwork to find particular documents. With all your documents in one place, this will free up the time of case handlers, allowing them to focus on more complex areas of litigation and settle cases more efficiently.
A reduction in paper files means that less storage space is required, freeing up areas in your office for additional staff, or allowing you to downsize your office, reducing your real estate costs.
How to Improve Law Firm Profitability Using the Right Case Management Software
Using a case management software which is specifically tailored to your law firm will vastly increase efficiency for your law firm. Proclaim case management software is excellent as it can be developed to meet the bespoke needs of your business.
With Proclaim, standard letter templates that integrate the information from a case can be developed, emails can be automated, and Court forms automatically completed. It can be seamlessly integrated with third party software. The opportunities for increasing efficiency and maximising law firm profitability are endless. With “In Case” your clients can remotely monitor the progress of their file whenever they like (you can customise everything they see) which helps to improve the client experience. Contact Legal Practice Support to find out how a Proclaim developer could assist your firm.
Set Up Proper Review Practices
Proper review practices when a file is being issued can assist in the reduction of wastage and wasted costs. With Court fees for issuing now going up to £10,000 for the highest value cases, the correct systems should be implemented to ensure cases are pleaded at the right amount. Using Proclaim, automation could be set up to inform a Manager if a case is being requested for issue, and for there to be an authorisation process to verify the quantum amount and merits of pursuing a claim.
Analysing data is an important task for all businesses to assist with increasing profitability. Proclaim software provides many analysis opportunities through the use of MI reports. Staff performance, average monthly spends, financial reporting, and bottlenecks in processes can all be monitored and analysed through Proclaim analysis reports, which can also be automated. If you are interested in developing Proclaim to increase your firm’s efficiency, take a look at the Proclaim development pages on our website to see how a Proclaim developer can assist your firm.
Invest in Effective Marketing
Many modern law firms pay out thousands to Claims Management Companies (CMCs). The issue with using these companies is that firms are required to pay for each claim, even if they are unsuccessful, resulting in a high level of wastage. It also places reliance upon an external company out of your control. Having an effective law firm marketing strategy in place will increase awareness of your business, and reduce the necessity for the use of these expensive CMCs. Many law firms who invest in marketing see a considerable return on investment as clients are coming to them directly, instead of through the use of a CMC. Contact us today to find out more about our legal marketing services, such as SEO and Social Media Management.
Focus Your Workload
Diversification is always a positive to ensure numerous streams of income to any firm. However, spreading the work too thinly or focussing a disproportionate amount of efforts into a low-profitable area of revenue can diminish the overall profitability possibilities of your company. It can be beneficial to review your business focus on a regular basis, and if a certain market of work isn’t performing as it should, despite time and effort having been expended upon the same, it may be more beneficial to re-focus efforts of the staff onto more profitable areas of work. WIP can be preserved and recovered at 100% utilising specialist companies that outsource files to be run to a conclusion. This can be common in personal injury fields where Solicitors are looking to exit certain areas of the market, such as in Road Traffic Accidents.
How Can Legal Practice Support Assist?
LPS offer a range of services and advice on how to improve law firm profitability. The firms we assist experience a huge boost in profits and return on investment due to increased efficiency and reduced overheads. We currently offer legal costs assistance, Proclaim Development, IT Services, and Legal Marketing Services, as well as having significant contacts in the legal market to assist in any areas of interest.
Contact us today using one of our contact forms, email email@example.com or call us on 0161 2403588.Read More
Eclipse Legal System’s Proclaim is one of the most effective and adaptable case management systems. It is not surprising that it is the most widely used software for Solicitors and legal professionals in the United Kingdom. The out-of-the-box software comes with many useful features; however, many firms are not utilising this software to its full potential. This means that many are missing out on many great benefits by not fully optimising and developing their system.
Vastly improved profitability and efficiency are two of the main benefits which result from the development and optimisation of Proclaim. Development can enable law firms to adapt to modern law reforms and helps them keep up with technological changes in the legal world.
How Can Proclaim be Developed?
- Automation – Proclaim Process Automation can assist in improving productivity by cutting down on those repetitive and tedious admin processes. Automated tasks can increase the efficiency of file handlers by cutting down on tedious, robotic tasks. Thus, allowing them to focus on more complex tasks and settling cases more swiftly.
- MI Reports – Management reports within the system allow in-depth data to be retrieved and analysed at any given time. Proclaim comes with numerous out-of-the-box management reports. However, many firms of Solicitors soon feel the need to develop their own bespoke reports to cover their unique business needs.
- Integration with IT Systems – Integration with third party systems is one of the most useful features which can be achieved through the development of the system. Proclaim can be seamlessly synchronised with many third-party systems, resulting in improved efficiency and increased profits.
- Workflow Optimisation – Productivity, client care, and compliance can all be improved through the use of workflow optimisation and task automation within the system.
- Bulk Data Solutions – The ability to import and export Proclaim data can greatly assist in productivity, efficiency and can prevent the risk of data loss.
How Can Legal Practice Support Assist?
Legal Practice Support are specialists in Proclaim Development solutions and Legal IT. We offer optimisation of your Proclaim system through the development of the software to ensure you are making the most of your system. Development of your system will vastly improve the productivity and efficiency of file handlers and will deliver real financial returns to your firm.
If you would like to discuss how a Proclaim Developer from the LPS team could assist your law firm, please contact us for further information.
James Denby is Head of Proclaim Development at Legal Practice Support and oversees all projects to ensure work is completed to a high standard for all clients. As an experienced Proclaim Developer, James also maintains his own workload, consisting of complex development projects or high priority tasks. He can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or get in touch with us via Live Chat or the contact form, below.Read More
The Judgments Act 1838 and Interest on Legal Costs
Under the Section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838, a receiving party can claim 8% interest on unpaid legal costs. The burden for interest can be reduced by virtue of completing a realistic assessment assessment of the amount of costs payable, and raising a payment on account. Interest will not run on any payment of costs made on account and thus it is worthwhile making such payments to reduce the overall costs payable by a paying party. S17 of the Judgments Act applies to cases settled by way of a Part 36 Offer or a sealed Order, thereby providing for a judgment debt. In many recent cases, there have been questions raised on whether the rate at which interest runs on legal costs should be reduced, and also the date from which interest should run (the principle dispute has often been where interest runs from the date of the Order for costs, or the date of agreement of costs).
This was demonstrated in the case of Hunt v RM Douglas (Roofing) Ltd  1 AC 398 when it was established that interest would be recovered from the date of judgment (Part 36 acceptance or Order providing for detailed assessment), and not when costs are assessed.
CPR 44 and Interest on Legal Costs
Under CPR 44.2(6)(g), there is a provision for interest on legal costs to be claimed pre-judgement. CPR 44.2(6)(g) states:
“The orders which the court may make under this rule include an order that a party must pay interest on costs from or until a certain date, including a date before judgment.”
However, according to the Senior Courts Costs Office Guide;
“The power to order interest to run from a date other than the date of judgment has, as at the date of preparing this guide, been found to be ultra vires in the county court until the Treasury takes certain steps to validate it. For the time being, in county court cases, interest on costs (other than the costs of assessment) will always run from the date of judgment.”
Involnert Management Inc v Aprilgrange Limited & Ors
In the case of Involnert Management Inc v Aprilgrange Limited & Ors  EWHC 2834 (Comm), the paying party wished to have the Court make a costs order with interest on costs running from 6 months after the order for costs. The receiving parties argued that interest should run from the date of Judgment.
Leggatt J determined that, under the Judgments Act, the default date from which interest is payable is the date on which the Costs Order is made. However, he asserted that neither the CPR, nor the Judgments Act restricted the power of the Court to order interest to run from an alternative date. He also referred to the interest rate stated in the Judgment Act and stated:
“I do not think it just in these circumstances that interest on whatever further sums the claimant is ultimately found liable to pay to the defendants and OAMPS should begin to run at the rate applicable to judgment debts before the claimant has been provided with a detailed statement of the costs claimed so that it can take an informed view of the amount its liability.”
It was therefore held that interest on legal costs should run at 2% above the Bank of England base rate from the date on which judgment for costs was entered, until three months after the costs orders were made. It would then run at the 8% rate as prescribed by the rules after this date on the basis that by this point, the paying party had been provided with a Bill of Costs. This stance should be adopted in any negotiations as it encourages a receiving party to commence detailed assessment proceedings promptly, and expedites the legal costs process/reduces the overall costs burden.
Pre-Judgement Interest on Legal Costs
The Court has power to award pre-judgment interest on costs under CPR CPR 44,2(6). This type of award would usually be used to compensate a party who has had to borrow money for their legal costs, or a party who has been deprived of the use of their money. The Court will usually assess this on a case by case basis to decide what is reasonable in the circumstances.
It was established in the case of Hunt v RM Douglas (Roofing) Limited (1987) TLR, 23, and Motto & Ors v Trafigura Ltd & anor  EWCA Civ 1150 that interest on funding costs could not be recovered as an item within the Bill of Costs however, it was held in the case of Jones & Ors v Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, that a pre-judgment award for interest may be permitted in certain circumstances.
In the case of Powell v Herefordshire Health Authority  EWCA Civ 1786, the Court of Appeal held that the Court has discretion to award pre-judgment interest on costs dependant on the circumstances.
In the case of Schuman -v- Veale Wasborough  EWHC 4070 (QB), a Judge refused to award pre-judgment interest on costs to a successful Defendant;
“In this case I have decided not to order interest to be paid on the costs paid to legal representatives before judgment. This is for a number of reasons. First the making of such orders is not usual. This is not necessarily a reason for not making such an order, but it suggests that there might be proper reasons for not making such an order. I consider that there are good reasons for not making such an order, as appears below. Secondly the exercise of the costs jurisdiction has always been rough and ready.”
How Can LPS Assist?
The Legal Practice Support team are always happy to help/advise on any costs issues, including the recovery of interest on disbursement funding loans. If you would like to find out more, please feel free to view the legal costs section on our website for further guidance. Our Costs Director, Robert Collington, can be contacted via email on email@example.com or by telephone on 01204 397302.
Disbursement funding loans are becoming an increasingly popular method for law firms to assist in funding expensive litigation and maintain cash flow, for instance in clinical negligence claims or commercial disputes. However, such loans come attached with interest payments. The question on whether interest paid on a disbursement funding loan can be recovered by a successful party has cropped up in a number of recent cases.
Recovering Interest as a Cost
It has long been established that costs of funding are not recoverable inter-partes and therefore should not be claimed as an item within the Bill of Costs. This was shown in the cases of Hunt v RM Douglas (Roofing) Limited (1987) TLR, 23, and Motto & Ors v Trafigura Ltd & anor  EWCA Civ 1150. As such, there is a question mark as to whether interest on a disbursement loan would form a part of costs of funding, which would thus not be recoverable inter-partes.
Recovering Interest on Costs
Under CPR 44.2(6)(g), the Court can award interest on costs. Typically, such interest would run from the incipitur date for costs (when any order is made for costs to be assessed, or the date of any Part 36 Offer acceptance). As the interest on any disbursement loan would have accrued prior to this date, this would be at odds as to the usual award for interest, and the question would therefore arise as to whether pre-judgment interest could be recovered.
Jones & Ors v Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
In the case of Jones & Ors v Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change & Anor  EWHC 1023 (QB), it was established that pre-judgement interest was recoverable on a credit agreement. In her Judgment, Mrs Justice Swift stated that the credit agreement obtained by the Claimant to fund the personal injury claim;
“provided a means by which the claimants could obtain funding for their disbursements without being required to advance any monies themselves and without financial risk since the credit agreements provided that, in the event of a claim failing, the disbursements would be paid by the ATE insurers”.
It was held that interest should be paid at an interest rate of 4% above base, which was also upheld by the Court of Appeal.
Can Interest be Recovered on a Disbursement Funding Loan?
Theoretically yes however, this would be wholly dependant upon a pre-judgment award for interest being permitted which is uncommon. It is therefore likely that the client should be made aware of interest on any disbursement loan, and that this may be deducted from damages, to avoid any reduction to costs recovered. Other factors that may also be taken into account were also highlighted in the recent case of Nosworthy v Royal Bournemouth  EWHC B19(Costs), in which it was highlighted that disbursement loan interest may be disallowed due to:
- The availability of any other funding sources, such as BTE, which is commonly considered before entering into a CFA.
- Any other interest recovered. In Nosworthy, in excess of £500 interest was recovered for the general costs, and thus it was stated this could be offset against any disbursement loan interest.
- Similar to Court fees remissions, does the client actually require a disbursement loan or do they have sufficient income/savings to fund the same?
Update – 10 July 2020
In the matter of Marbrow v Sharpes Garden Services Limited  EWHC B26 (Costs) heard in the SCCO, it was reaffirmed that interest should run from the incipitur date. It was considered in principle that pre-Judgment interest on disbursement funding was recoverable, and that there was a powerful argument to allow this if the receiving party had struggled to fund litigation. In the circumstances however, the interest accrued on the loan was not considered so significant as to warrant the award of pre-Judgment interest, and that the standard 8% recovered in interest from the incipitur date was adequate to offset against the disbursement loan interest.
It is therefore important that if a claim is to be made for pre-Judgment interest on a disbursement loan, that the client’s circumstances have been taken into account (and those of the Solicitor in justifying the appropriate rate of interest that should apply). Marbrow also reaffirmed that interest on a loan should not be included as an item in the Bill, and that it should be made alongside the usual claim from interest on agreement of the main costs.
How Can LPS Assist?
The Legal Practice Support team are always happy to help/advise on any costs issues, including the recovery of interest on disbursement funding loans. If you would like to find out more, please feel free to view the legal costs section on our website for further guidance. Our Costs Director, Robert Collington, can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 01204 397302.Read More
What is Money Claim Online (MCOL)?
Money Claim Online (MCOL) is a method of settling a dispute or disagreement by initiating a County Court claim for a fixed sum of money. It is a straight forward way to commence Court proceedings for small claims which amount to less than £100,000.
These types of claims should be issued by one Claimant, against no more than two defendants. The HM Courts and Tribunals Service have set out guidance on making a money claim online, including which types of dispute this method can be used for, and how to accurately complete the Claim Form. The guidance also sets out the rules for making a MCOL, such as the requirement to be aged over 18, have a valid email address, and be based in England or Wales.
Proclaim Integration with MCOL
As more and more Solicitors are beginning to offer assistance with MCOL, we have noted an increase in enquiries relating to the integration of the Eclipse Proclaim Claims Management System and Money Claim Online.
The good news is that Proclaim can be integrated seamlessly with the MCOL system as the data is available on an open government licence, giving you the flexibility to manage your money claims, alongside the rest of your case load, all within the one system. The benefit of this type of integration is that processes become more streamlined, and efficiency is improved as a result.
How Can Legal Practice Support Assist?
At LPS, we are skilled in developing and optimising your Eclipse Legal Proclaim system to fit 100% with your business needs. If your law firm uses the Proclaim system, and is offering assistance with MCOL, we are able to develop your Proclaim system to allow for MCOL integration with Proclaim.
If you would like to find out more about Proclaim integration and how a Proclaim Developer from the Legal Practice Support team could assist your firm, please do not hesitate to contact email@example.com for further information.Read More
What is Proclaim Go?
Eclipse Legal have launched a new mobile and tablet friendly app which will help fee earners access important information whilst on the go. Proclaim Go was developed for legal professionals who find themselves travelling often or requiring access to live case information whilst in client meetings.
This innovative new solution allows fee earners to undertake a number of tasks on the go, such as viewing future tasks, logging phone calls, recording time, recording meetings, updating vital information in real time, and creating memos. As long as fee earners have access to the internet, and a smartphone or tablet, users can access history details of any case, including all previous correspondence and documents, whilst away from their computer.
The new solution also offers an optional two-factor authentication to increase accessibility whilst maintaining security. The extra flexibility provided by this app will see an increase in fee earners’ productivity and will help them provide an excellent service to their clients as all information can be accessed instantly.
Proclaim Go may also be of particularly useful during the Coronavirus outbreak as many employers have been forced to adapt to working from home. This new app gives Proclaim users another efficient method of accessing case information remotely. To find out more about how Proclaim can assist your employees in working from home, have a read of our recent article.
Eclipse Proclaim, is the most popular legal case management system which has been endorsed by the law society and is used by many types of legal service providers. The addition of Proclaim Go to Eclipse’s case management solutions will only add to the popularity of the system due to its ease of use and adaptability.
How Can Legal Practice Support Assist?
Legal Practice Support can provide information to law firms on this new app. We also assist law firms in accessing their Proclaim, and other case management systems remotely.
We are experienced in taking out-of -the-box Proclaim legal software and developing it to automate processes and reduce administrative tasks, both of which are of great use when having to work remotely.
Having been active in the Legal IT industry for over seven years, we have valuable experience managing IT systems for firms as small as 30 people all the way up to enterprise clients with over 300. Furthermore, we are accustomed to working with multiple other stakeholders to resolve any IT problems that might arise.Read More
What is a Precedent H Costs Budget?
A Precedent H Costs Budget is used at the beginning of the litigation process and outlines the details of any costs expected to be incurred throughout the case. Practice Direction 3E sets out the rules for case management, including costs budgeting .
A Costs Budget should include all base costs incurred to date, future costs expected to be incurred throughout the case up to and including trial. All solicitor’s fees and disbursements, such as Court fees should be included within the budget.
Deviating from a Budget
In the case of Harrison V University Hospitals it was established that a Costs Judge could only depart from Precedent H if there was good reason to do so. It has since been difficult to establish exactly what would constitute a good reason to depart from a Precedent H costs budget as the Court did not provide any guidance on this.
In the case of RNB v London Borough of Newham it was held that a reduction in hourly rates did amount to a good reason to deviate. In this case, master Campbell stated:
“At the assessment hearing, I made reductions to the hourly rate claimed for the incurred costs to a level which has meant that the overall recovery by the Claimant for the period of work before the Costs Management Order has been reduced by significant amounts. Were that not to be reflected in the budgeted costs, that would mean that the Claimant will appear to recover an hourly rate as set out in Precedent H for the budgeted stage, at a level that significantly exceeds the figure I consider to be reasonable for the pre-budget stage.”
This decision was later decided the other way in the SCCO and ultimately, this guidance has been followed since that a change in hourly rates did not constitute a ‘good reason’ to deviate from a Costs Budget.
Utting V City College Norwich
In the recent case of Utting V City College Norwich there was yet another debate on what would constitute a good reason to depart from an approved Precedent H Costs Budget. In this case it was debated whether an underspend would constitute a good reason.
Master Brown held that, in this case, the underspend could not amount to a good reason to depart from the budget and he therefore refused to reduce the amounts claimed for phases that ‘had not been substantially completed.’ This was contrary to the decision made in Barts Health NHS Trust v Salmon.
Master Brown stated in Utting that:
“even if ‘underspend’ were a “good reason” for the purpose of CPR 3.18 it does not follow that there should be a deduction from the sums claimed. Plainly, the fact that a party has spent less than its budget for a phase does not mean there is therefore in fact a good or appropriate reason for any further reduction and I was not satisfied that there was any additional “good reason” for any such reduction.”
As such, unless it can be demonstrated that the expenditure in an incomplete phase of Precedent H Costs Budget is unreasonable, then there is no ‘good reason’ to reduce the costs claimed as under the approved expenditure of the phase.
How Can Legal Practice Support Assist?
The Legal Practice Support team are always happy to help with any budgeting issues. If you would like to find out more about best practice in preparing your Cost Budget, please feel free to view the section on our website for further guidance. Our Costs Director, Robert Collington, can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 01204 397302.Read More
What is a Fee Challenge Under the Solicitors Act 1974?
Part III of the Solicitors Act 1974 regulates the amount of disbursements and costs which a Solicitor can invoice within their bill to their client. Under this Act, the client has the ability to dispute the fees, such as success fee deductions, and disbursements within the Solicitor’s bill. This act applies to a large range of practice areas, including personal injury cases, conveyancing cases and contentious business litigation.
With many companies now offering services to clients to assist in disputing their legal fees, these types of challenges are becoming more commonplace in the legal industry, which is why it is important that solicitors are aware of their duties under the Act, when opening and closing files. It is also important that they know how to defend this type of claim, if and when they arise.
What Should a Solicitor do When Opening a File?
If the case is based on a Conditional Fee Agreement, it is important that the Conditional Fee Agreement is drafted properly, and does not just routinely charge a 100% success fee. In the case of Herbert v HH Law  EWCA Civ 527, it was shown that solicitors should undertake a proper and bespoke risk assessment at the start of every case, instead of applying a 100% success fee as standard across all cases. The success fee calculated will determine what deductions can be taken, if any, from the client’s damages.
It should also be noted that any retainer must make clear that the client may be charged more than they recover from the other side, as otherwise the Solicitor risks being limited to calculating any success fee as against any fixed costs recovered, in Fast Track personal injury litigation.
What Should a Solicitor Do When Closing a File?
The most important step which a Solicitor should routinely take when closing a file, is serving a signed statute bill. A Solicitor cannot enforce their fees to a client unless a statute bill has been properly delivered to the client, but equally, the timescale for a client to contest any deductions from their damages runs from the date of service of a statute bill. If enforcing a Bill, the Solicitor has several options open to them to collect payment, including the obtaining of a charging order.
If you serve a statute bill, this starts the clock ticking on any timescale for the client to contest any deductions. This timescale is limited to one month if the statute bill is paid (which in the event of damages deductions, payment is immediate). If the bill is not discharged, the same can be contested for up to twelve months post-service of the document.
The statute bill should include a description of all work done on the file, and should be delivered to the client via post, in person, or via e-mail, if the client has requested.
It is also imperative that you make sure any success fee deductions from damages is calculated correctly. This must comply with the retainer, in that the correct success fee is used, and charges calculated against the WIP incurred at the hourly rates detailed in the CFA (presuming it states that the client may be charged in excess of any amounts recoverable from a paying party).
Deductions must also comply with statute, and can only be calculated based on past damages (not future losses), and be capped at 25% of the same.
When Should a Statute Bill be Served on a Client?
- At the end of the case, when all of the work agreed under the retainer or CFA has been completed.
- Interim statute bills can be served when there is an express agreement for the solicitor to do so, and the client has been made aware of their entitlement to assessment under the Solicitors Act 1974.
- Following a natural break within the litigation process, which allows each portion of the work being done to be treated as a distinct and separate part of the litigation.
- Following the termination of a retainer or CFA, for example, if the solicitor has a good reason to terminate the CFA or retainer.
Defending a Challenge Under the Solicitors Act 1974
Proceedings for a challenge under this act can be held in the High Court or the County Court, and are dealt with under Part 8 of the CPR. The Solicitor can contest the Claimants entitlement to assessment, if there is sufficient reason to do so. If the Solicitor does not, or cannot contest the entitlement to assessment, section 46.10 of the CPR will apply for the costs to be assessed, in a similar procedure to that of detailed assessment.
How Can LPS Assist?
The Legal Practice Support team are always happy to help with any costs issues, including defending costs challenges under the Solicitors Act 1974. Our Costs Director and Costs Lawyer, Robert Collington, can be contacted via email on email@example.com or by telephone on 01204 397302.
If you would like to find out more information on preparing your Cost Budget, Bill of Costs, or the process of detailed assessment, have a look at these sections on our website. Feel free to have a look at our legal costs section to find out more about out legal costs services.Read More
What is a Cost Order?
Legal costs are incurred in all cases. The unsuccessful party will be responsible for paying the costs incurred by the successful party in an inter-partes matter. A cost order, put simply, is an Order made by a Judge, under CPR 44, to decide whether costs are payable, and the level of costs payable by the unsuccessful party, to the successful party.
When can a Cost Order be Made?
A Judge can award costs at any stage throughout a case. There are different types of cost orders, such as final costs orders, which are made on conclusion of a case, and interim costs orders, made following an interim hearing.
After Which Type of Hearing Can a Cost Order be Granted?
An order for costs can be granted after any court case or hearing, including a disposal hearing, an application hearing, or a trial. A successful party can also claim costs following acceptance of a part 36 offer, or after the filing of a Notice of Discontinuance.
What Should I Do if I Have Received an Order for Costs?
When you have received an order for costs, you should check to see if the order is made against you, or in your favour. You should also check if the costs are summarily assessed or ordered for detailed assessment.
Summarily Assessed Costs
If you have received an order for costs against you for summarily assessed costs, this means that you should pay the costs awarded to the receiving party within 14 days, unless otherwise stated. The amount payable should be stated on the order.
If you have received an order for costs in your favour for summarily assessed costs, this means costs are owed to you by the paying party and should be paid within 14 days. If payment is not received, then enforcement action can be taken via various methods, including a Warrant of Control, Warrant of Possession or Third Party Debt Order.
Costs Ordered for Detailed Assessment
If you have received this type of order against you, you should wait for the receiving party to serve their bill of costs and Notice of Commencement. You should then file any Points of Dispute within 21 days as required by CPR 47.9. You should then wait for the receiving party’s Points of Reply and attempt to negotiate a settlement before proceeding to an assessment hearing.
If you have received a cost order for detailed assessment in your favour, you should instruct a Costs Draftsman to advise on the costs you can recover, and to prepare and serve your Bill of Costs on the paying party alongside the Notice of Commencement. This will initiate detailed assessment proceedings and you should attempt to negotiate a settlement before proceeding to an assessment. In an attempt to negotiate a settlement, you should wait for the paying party’s Points of Dispute and respond with your Points of Reply.
If the paying party do not send their Points of Dispute within 21 days, you will be able to apply for a Default Costs Certificate for the full amount claimed in the Bill of Costs.
How Can LPS Assist?
The Legal Practice Support team are always happy to help with any costs issues, including negotiating your bill of costs. Our Costs Director, Robert Collington, can be contacted via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone on 01204 397302.
If you would like to find out more information on preparing your cost budget, bill of costs, or the process of detailed assessment, have a look at these sections on our website. Feel free to have a look at our legal costs section to find out more about out legal costs services.Read More