Lord Justice Jackson has called for fixed legal costs to apply in all civil claims valued up to £250,000.
Currently, fixed recoverable costs only apply to personal injury claims valued up to £25,000. But the architect of the costs regime introduced by the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, has suggested there should be a fixed cost ‘grid’ for all multi-track cases worth up to £250,000, irrespective of their complexity.
Jackson urged the government to implement the change as a priority and said it could be introduced by the end of the year.
He told the Insolvency Practitioners Association that ‘high litigation costs inhibit access to justice’ and ‘if costs prevent access to justice, this undermines the rule of law’.
But Chairman of the Bar, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, warned that using the value of a case to determine costs could curtail access to justice, by making it economically unviable to take on complex cases.
‘A low value but legally complex case may demand a great deal more work than the allocated cost band will allow. This means lawyers may not take on complicated, low value cases, thus preventing legitimate claims from being pursued,’ she said.
She warned that the proposal could tilt the litigation playing field further in favour of big business and the state, which may well be willing to spend large sums of money – beyond what is recoverable.
In a separate speech to the Solicitors’ Costs conference, Jackson proposed that the legal profession revisit the idea of setting up a contingent legal aid fund (CLAF) that would operate as a not-for-profit third-party litigation funder to finance ‘ordinary’ litigation as well as ‘deserving’ cases.
The Bar Council backed the suggestion and said it had already opened discussions with CILEx and the Law Society to set up a working group, but said its viability and scope would need to be considered carefully.