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Number of vacancies: Three (Two immediate, one future vacancy)
Costs Judges assess the legal costs of matters in the Senior Courts where:
- There has been a court order in a civil action for payment of legal costs by one party to another.
- One party has received legal aid and payment of his/her costs is to be made out of public funds.
- Where fee paying clients or other persons liable to pay a solicitor’s bill are dissatisfied with the charges and wish to challenge their level under the Solicitors Act 1974.
- Where in a criminal case the court has ordered that the defendant’s costs be paid out of public funds.
They do this at detailed assessment hearings attended by the parties or their representatives. This may involve considering substantial quantities of documents – often running to 20 or more boxes of files – as well as eliciting the facts and deciding any legal issues that arise in the assessment.
Bills assigned to Costs Judges for assessment will be for a minimum of £75,000 (bills below this figure can be assigned if they contain complex points) and the maximum is unlimited. ‘Run of the mill’ bills are likely to be in the region of £200,000-£500,000, and bills over £1m are common.
Assessments are not restricted to the fees of the legal profession. Costs Judges are frequently required to assess claims put forward by expert witnesses such as accountants, architects, surveyors, medical experts and foreign lawyers.
Costs Judges also hear applications involving misconduct or wasted costs and have wide powers to investigate and make penal orders where parties or their legal advisers have conducted proceedings improperly or unreasonably.
The Senior Courts within the remit of the roles are the Court of Appeal (Civil and Criminal Divisions), the Administrative Court and the High Court (Queen’s Bench, Family and Chancery Divisions), including matters before the Commercial Court, the Companies Court, the Admiralty Registrar, the Technology and Construction Court and the Court of Protection. The costs of Bankruptcy proceedings under the Insolvency Rules and costs awarded by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and other tribunals are also assessed by Costs Judges. They consider the costs of Family proceedings in the Principal Registry of the Family Division and some cases in District Registries and County Courts. They also have an appellate jurisdiction for costs in criminal proceedings.
The vacancies are open to solicitors and barristers in England and Wales with at least five years’ post qualification experience (PQE). Detailed knowledge of the law of costs and its application is required and this will be assessed as part of the selection process for these roles.
As well as requiring knowledge of all aspects of costs law, Costs Judges need a general knowledge of all other civil, family and criminal law. Typical civil cases will involve such diverse areas of law as defamation, clinical negligence, planning, personal injury, commercial law or marine law.
Cases can often involve litigants in person (drawn from all backgrounds from the wealthy to the most vulnerable) and can require especially sensitive handling.
Key Terms and Conditions
- The appointment is subject to an upper age limit of 70 years with a reasonable length of service of five years.
- The successful candidate cannot practise as a barrister or solicitor or be indirectly concerned in any such practice. The Lord Chancellor regards a judicial office as a lifetime appointment and any offer of appointment is therefore made on the understanding that the appointee will not return to practice.
- Membership of the judicial pension scheme is automatic on appointment, but it is not compulsory and a holder of judicial office may opt out.
- It is essential to be able to devote 210 days each year to judicial business.
- The successful candidate must live within reasonable travelling distance of the Royal Courts of Justice.
Individuals who are eligible to apply (including having knowledge of the law of costs and its application), but do not intend to do so this time, can gain experience for future selection exercises, by volunteering to take part in a mock interview. These mock opportunities help the JAC to fine-tune the content of the selection process. If you are interested in taking part please email John Curtis via firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Please note that by participating you will disqualify yourself from applying for this selection exercise this time around. You will, of course, be free to apply for other positions running concurrently or afterwards.