In April 2013, following Lord Justice Jackson’s review of civil litigation costs, the current cost management rules came into force. It is fair to say those rules and their strict implementation have created some difficulties for litigation lawyers since their introduction. Most litigators will be very familiar with the Denton v White test for relief from sanctions and the potentially serious consequences of failing to file a costs budget on time. Additionally, under the costs management regime, litigation lawyers must keep legal costs under review as a case progresses. A recent amendment to the civil procedure rules, which came into force on 1 October 2020, clarified the process that must be followed for applications to vary costs budgets and the courts continue to play an active role in managing costs. The rules can encourage parties in litigation to take an active role in costs management, ensure legal costs are kept proportionate and under review, and may offer a degree of certainty to parties around costs. Nonetheless costs budgeting can be a time-consuming process which often needs to be carried out during the preparation for a costs and case management conference. This applies in respect of both the legal representatives preparing costs budgeting documents and the courts who may have to determine any dispute about budgets. Therefore, while the costs management rules now seem an established practice in civil procedure, it will be interesting to see if any review of the regime is instigated and any proposed changes that may result.
Master of the rolls Sir Geoffrey Vos has said the time has ‘undoubtedly’ come for a review of the costs budgeting regime. Speaking at the Association of Costs Lawyers annual conference today, Vos said he had no pre-conceived ideas about how the eight-year-old costs budgeting rules might be altered, but suggested too much court time is being taken up with disputes about budgets.