Guideline Solicitors Hourly Rates
Before the implementation of the Civil Procedure Rules guideline solicitors hourly rates were set by local negotiation with the local County Court. In 1999 formal guideline rates for solicitors to use on summary assessment of costs were introduced. Originally this included some consideration of the actual expense of time (i.e. what it cost solicitors to do the work), however it then moved towards looking at what solicitors were actually charging their clients.
Before 1999 there were 2 grades of fee earner, namely:
- partner, solicitor or legal executive; and
- any other fee earner.
In 1999 it moved to 3 grades, namely:
- Solicitors with over 4 years post-qualification experience;
- Other solicitors, legal executives and fee earners of equivalent experience; and
- trainee solicitors and fee earners of equivalent experience.
From 2001 a further top grade of solicitors of 8 or more years litigation experience was added.
When first introduced the rates were set by local negotiation. While it was planned that rates would be provided for areas, it rapidly descended into a piecemeal system with everyone trying to justify a higher rate. This introduced the nightmare scenario as can be seen in the 2001-2002 rates, where there was no consistency in the amount that the courts would allow. From 2003 a more consistent approach has been applied with areas being put into national bands or groups.
The rates were originally issued every 2 years, but moved to an annual review from 2007 onwards. Following the review of civil costs by Lord Justice Jackson the process was to be looked again, but then seems to have fallen through the cracks. As a result the rates have remain frozen since 1 April 2010.
The review is effected by the Advisory Committee on Civil Costs issuing recommended guideline hourly rates as a broad approximation starting point for summary assessments of solicitor's costs. The Court is allowed to vary from these rates, but you would normally have to show that the work was out of the ordinary and justified a higher rate.
The rates are also regarded on detailed assessments, but are less persuasive. It is much more common for higher rates to be allowed on a detailed assessment when the Judge has been able to consider the whole file.
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