Give us a clue Jackson

Tension grows as lawyers call for Jackson reform details to avoid last-minute rush

As the countdown to 2013 begins many litigators will be thinking about the impending implementation of Sir Rupert Jackson’s costs reforms. Yet frustration is mounting over the lack of detail coming out of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over the reform programme.

Speaking at the London Solicitors Litigation Association’s winter bash president Francesa Kaye last week vented about the lack of information.

“The silence is extraordinary, given the usual level of leaks and the significance of the proposed changes in April 2013,” she said. “No draft rules, no consultation on draft rules. No draft regulations. The rule committee is due to meet in December and the rules will have to published shortly thereafter if the 1 April 2013 deadline is to be met.

“Perhaps it is the fear of the unknown, fear of losing control. As an association we’re concerned by the silence.”

The reforms will mean the way litigation is managed will change beyond recognition. The introduction of damages-based agreements (DBA), for example, has been largely welcomed by City firms wanting to offer more flexible billing methods. While relatively straightforward in theory, firms still do not know whether DBAs will be capped and, if so, at what level.

The funding method is intended to replace the conditional fee agreement system, but until the details are clears firms are unable to adapt their models.

Lawyers say the problem is that the reform programme is being delivered piecemeal, against the advice of Jackson when he published his report. He was emphatic that funding issues could only be resolved if the programme was implemented in full.

In his inaugural speech as Master of the Rolls in October Lord Dyson declared: “Let there be no doubt, the reforms will come into force next April.”

Unless some detail is circulated widely, and soon, it may be that firms are left rushing to put their houses in order. This will have a big effect on clients left in limbo as lawyers adapt to the new regime.