Medical and other expert agencies are now a fact of life for most law firms. In many ways they have removed from lawyers the burden of locating and instructing an expert. But they also raise ever more complex issues. This has been demonstrated in the recent case of Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust -v- Hoskin reported by barrister Gordon Exall*.
The nature of these arrangements is that different work is done by the agency and by the expert themself.
In this case Premex delivered invoices for global sums, which were included in the Claimant’s bill. The Defendant asked for a breakdown identifying who did what. This request was refused. The matter ended up on appeal to HHJ Bird who agreed that the paying party was entitled to this information. Practice Direction 47 requires the receiving party to serve on the paying party –
(c) copies of the fee notes of counsel and of any expert in respect of fees claimed in the bill;
(d) written evidence as to any other disbursement which is claimed, and which exceeds £500
The invoice provided by Premex was not a fee note of the expert. An agency is not an expert. The paying party was entitled to know the amount of the fees charged by the expert. The judge ordered that the breakdown be provided within 14 days.
One topic that we don’t often cover in this update is the payment of costs to the SRA following disciplinary action. This concerns the case of Duncan Dollimore who was struck off back in 2016. He was ordered to pay £10k costs. He escaped enforcement of the costs at the time because of his limited finances. It subsequently cam to light that he had jointly purchased a house for over £400k. The SDT granted the SRA permission to enforce the costs order as he was longer impecunious.
One thing that is regularly in the news is AI and how these developments are likely to change the way we work. So we asked ChatGPT if the days of the costs lawyer were numbered. Thankfully this is the reply, so it looks like we are safe for now!
Costs lawyers specialize in analyzing legal costs, providing advice, and assisting with legal fee disputes. They often deal with complex billing structures, court rules, and regulations, which require a deep understanding of the legal system. While AI can automate some routine tasks such as document review, data analysis, and calculations, it may not possess the contextual understanding, critical thinking abilities, and legal expertise necessary to handle all aspects of costs law.
Furthermore, the legal profession involves client interaction, negotiation, and advocacy, which require interpersonal skills and human judgment. Clients may still prefer working with human costs lawyers who can provide personalized advice, guidance, and representation.
However, AI can augment the work of costs lawyers by automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks, allowing them to focus on higher-level strategic work and analysis. AI tools can assist in cost calculations, document analysis, and case research, enabling costs lawyers to work more efficiently and effectively.
In summary, while AI may impact certain aspects of costs law practice, it is unlikely to eliminate the need for costs lawyers entirely. The human expertise, judgment, and client interaction provided by costs lawyers are likely to remain valuable in the legal profession.
Contact Rob Cook at any for drafting of bills, costs queries and assistance with retainers.