Litigator's View

As an independent law costs draftsman, my view of the fast-track experiment which runs from 1 October 1997 for one year is that these arrangements seem to be more for the benefit of the administration of the process and for the profit of the Taxing Office than for the benefit of the other parties involved.

Mark the words of Mr Justice Colman that this new procedure necessarily involves a "broad-brush" approach to the taxation of costs, and all parties' solicitors should advise their clients accordingly.

The procedure requires consent to the process no later than at the hearing of the Summons for Directions, and an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages will be made early and before the likely result.

Time for taxation will be limited to a maximum of half a day except in exceptional circumstances.

The procedure has to be strictly adhered to and the taxation will be determined on the basis of material lodged. Any oral submissions will be confined to points raised within 21 days and the decision will be final.

The result, it would seem, is that officers of the court will be required to do less, spend less time on a matter, and revenue for taxing fees will be increased as the turnover accelerates. The taxing fee is chargeable on solicitors' costs and all disbursements and VAT at 7.5 per cent.

If the likely receiving party's solicitor's records are first rate it would not seem to be an advantage to their client to accept a broad-brush approach.

The party likely to have a weaker case may benefit because the broad-brush approach militates against a successful party obtaining a recovery of all reasonable costs which might have been recovered on a more detailed examination which could not be given within the limited time period.

On the basis that the provisions of Order 62 will apply, the procedure would seem to offer the worst of both worlds. Winners shy from it, losers go for it.