After formal review, from the 1st October 2021, guideline hourly rates for solicitors in England and Wales will be expected to increase. Sir Geoffrey Vos (The Master of Rolls) has approved the newly proposed Solicitor guideline hourly rates, which were recommended by the Civil Justice Council. 

Current solicitors guideline hourly rates

Over the last few years, cost lawyers and other litigators have argued whether the current guideline hourly rates could still be seen as reasonable and up to date. Master Whalan, a judge of the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO), stated that due to the factors like the increasing level of inflation over the last 10 years and other commercial pressures, there needs to be a new “form of monetary uplift” to combat these things and make these guidelines more reasonable. 

 The working group for the CJC is composed of, Cost JudgesCourt Officers, Circuit judges, District Judges, Barristers, commercial solicitors and civil litigation solicitors. They published their recommendations in a draft report that was consulted on during the first quarter of the year after an in-depth look at all the evidence from those of the legal profession during September 2020 to December 2020.  

Prior to these recommendations, the rates for solicitors and other fee earners were broken down into categories based off the experience of the solicitors (Bands A-D) and the location of the work being done (London Grade 1,2, 3 or national Grade 1 and 2). The new guideline’s structure has pretty much stayed the same, although, the rates amongst the categories have a percentage increase ranging anywhere from 6.8% to 26.78%. For example, the guideline rate for Band A Solicitors in London grade 1 will increase from £490 to £512. Alongside this, there has been a small suggestion to change the summary assessment for N260’s and Bill of CostsFee earners will now be required to specify the location of where the work is being located, solely to combat firms charging their clients rates based on their central London office when the work is being carried out at a regional branch instead. 

Predicted impact of the new rates

Now that the recommendations have been accepted, the CJC are sure that there will be a new regard for the Guideline Hourly Rates. Handling a Bill of costs or Detailed assessment can now be guided with better skill and overall care. Furthermore, there is now a new precedent in place for there to be regular reviews taking place rather than the 11 year wait that previously took place. 

It’s clear to see that this new guideline reform has impacted the process of billing costs for litigators in a positive way. They can now receive payments based on guidelines that are objectively up to date and reflective of societies economics. The change to the summary assessments for N260’s has also made the billing process fairer and accurate also. It’s reviews like this that help produce a court system that is generally better and sustainable in the long term.