Lawyers fear litigation rate rise will not cover assistant pay hikes

The Supreme Court Costs Office will allow City litigation rates to rise by 5 per cent over the next two years, but City lawyers are concerned the decision has not taken into account predicted hikes in assistant wages

Effectively, the summary litigation costs will rise by an average of two-and-a-half per cent in 2003 and 2004.

The London Solicitors Litigation Association (LSLA) is concerned that the 2003-04 City rates will not reflect predicted hikes in assistant salaries, even though it negotiated the 5 per cent increase with the costs judges.

The rate for a City lawyer who is more than eight years qualified is now £342 an hour, up from £325, while trainees and paralegals can now be charged out at £116 an hour, up from £110.

The costs judges are meant to take salary rises and rises in City rents into account when setting new rates.

Since 2001, magic circle pay for newly qualified assistants has risen from £42,000 to a universal benchmark of £50,000, representing an increase of almost 20 per cent.

Many top firms outside the magic circle, such as Lovells, Herbert Smith and Norton Rose, are paying newly-qualifieds £50,000, although their wages were lower in 2001 than those of magic circle firms.