Solicitor’s Bill of Costs: Do Fee Earners Need to be Listed?

AKC v Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust [2022] EWCA Civ 630



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What is a Solicitor’s Bill of Costs?

Subsequent to the conclusion of a claim, the successful party can recover their solicitors’ fees and other legal costs, such as disbursements from the unsuccessful party. To do so, they will have to prepare and serve a Bill of Costs for the paying party to scrutinise. Generally, this document should be served within three months of receiving the costs order.

A costs draftsman or costs lawyer will require access to the file of papers attached to the case. From this information, they will be able to chronologically itemise the work done. In order for the total costs to be generated, the hourly rates for each fee earner will inputted into the bill.

Once the bill has been produced, it will be sent to the paying party alongside a Notice of Commencement to initiate Detailed Assessment Proceedings. Upon receipt, they have a 21 day time limit to respond to the bill with their Points of Dispute. Negotiations will proceed, and it is hoped that the costs will be agreed during this period. If they are not, the parties can apply to the court for assessment of the bill by a costs judge. This will take place via a detailed assessment hearing, which the parties will have at least 14 days’ notice of.


Rules for Drafting a Solicitor’s Bill of Costs

Practice Direction 47 provides guidance on what should be included in a Bill of Costs. It states the information which should be included on the title page, the necessary background information and the form and content required.

It is imperative that the drafter of the bill ensures proportionality of costs. Irrespective of whether the court is conducting costs assessment on a standard or indemnity basis, they will monitor proportionality within bills. If judges find that costs have been inflated, it is likely that they will be reduced.

Furthermore, a draftsman of a bill needs to take care when drafting a bill. They need to ensure that the information is correct and no errors have been made, as the court will be dissatisfied if they are faced with an erroneous bill.

Practices for detailed assessment are continuously under review from the SCCO and their Costs Practioners Group, which includes the Law Society. This ensures that procedures are up to date. Therefore, costs experts should be aware of the current rules to ensure that they are not making any errors.


Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust v AKC [2021] EWHC 2607 (QB)

In the initial High Court appeal decision handed down by Mrs Justice Steyn, a summary of which can be found here, a number of factors were determined.

The drafters of the Bill had failed to clarify who the signatory of the bill was, alongside failing to provide fee earner details.

The judges reflected upon this issue and acknowledged that although it was not necessary within Practice Direction 47 to name fee earners, it was done on most bills. Despite the lack of clarity on naming fee earners, Practice Direction 47 does require drafters to detail the status of fee earners. The paper bill under assessment in this matter failed to do this.

In addition, it was found that the electronic bill provided did not fit the requirements of paragraph 5.A2 of Practice Direction 47, as it failed to include the fee earner’s names or their SCCO grades.

As a result of the absent information, Justice Steyn decided that the original bill of costs should be struck out and a replacement, written in accordance with the Civil Procedure Rules, should be provided. This was upheld by the appeal court.

In typical scenarios, a bill of costs would not be struck out. Though in this matter, the court could not decipher who completed the work recorded, thus no other option was available.

Ultimately findings were made as follows:

1. The signatory to the backsheet of a Bill of Costs must be legible and clearly state the position and name of the individual, and that they are legally qualified;

2. That in an electronic Bill of Costs at the very least, that the full name, grade and status of any file handler should be provided to allow the paying party to adequately assess the Bill of Costs before them.

The Receiving Party Claimant sought to appeal the decision further to the Court of Appeal, to obtain clarification on the issue.


AKC v Barking, Havering & Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust [2022] EWCA Civ 630

Before Lord Justices Newey, Dingemans and Lewis, with Costs Judge Rowley sitting as an assessor, the issue as to the description of the fee earners was specifically focussed on.  It was concluded that the Bill of Costs was defective, but that this had somewhat been alleviated by the information provided in the Claimant’s Points of Reply.

Despite this however, of the 33 fee earners included in the Bill, it was impossible to identify which specific named fee earners had completed specific tasks.  It was determined that each item in the Bill must be capable of being attributed to an individual, and therefore that the appropriate sanction had been that which had been ordered by Steyn J in the High Court, that the existing Bill of Costs be struck out and a replacement served on the Paying Party, that complied with the CPR.  Specifically, that each file handler be named and all work that they had completed be capable of being linked to them.


How can ARC Costs Assist?  

The decision in AKC reaffirms the importance of having your Bill of Costs drafted by a costs expert.  Our team of expert Costs Draftsmen and Costs Lawyers have extensive experience in the costs law industry and regular conduct detailed assessments to ensure the most positive outcome is achieve.

Our team regularly act for Receiving Parties to producet accurate, detailed Bills of Costs, in the three column format or the electronic version. Alongside this, they can prepare costs instruments such as Costs Budgets and provide legal advice on costs, as well as a full legal costs negotiations and detailed assessment service.

To find out more about how we can help you, please contact us at 01204 397302 or at  


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