News from the ACL conference

The ACL this year pulled off something of a major coup in that the key note speech at the annual conference on 11th May was given by Lord Neuberger, the Master of the Rolls.  In a wide ranging speech he attacked the long established practice of calculating solicitor’s charges on the basis of time spent  x hourly rate on the basis that this rewards the inefficient solicitor and generally confuses cost with value. Of course, he is not the first person to point this out and it has always been something that HH Michael Cook in his book “Cook on Costs” has been at pains to point out. Lord Neuberger argues strongly that, rather than selling time to the client, the emphasis should be on skill and experience and considers that the development of ABS’s (Alternative Business Structures) may well promote this change of culture, particularly if DBA’s (Damages Based Agreements) are used. However, Andrew Post QC in another speech to the ACL conference pointed a number of problems with DBA’s, not least their tendency to over-compensate lawyers under certain circumstances which would be bound to attract attention. He also pointed out the scope for increasing disputes between client and solicitor. No doubt things will become clearer in the future but this is clearly a minefield and it is likely to be some time before any new regime is in place.