In a surprise move, the Master of the Rolls (MR) has today rejected recommendations to amend the guideline hourly rates payable to solicitors.

The Civil Justice Council, at the request of the Ministry of Justice, appointed a committee last year that was chaired by Mr Justice Foskett.

Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said:

“We welcome the decision of the MR. This is a victory for common sense and for the Law Society. We cooperated throughout this review by providing some of our publicly available research data, and the committee included representatives from the Society. However, we were clear from the start that our data was not obtained for the specific purpose of a review of the guideline hourly rates. We expressed our concerns about both the relevance of the Law Society data being used in this way and the need for robust and relevant evidence.

“The master of the rolls has proposed urgent discussions with us and the government. We look forward to working together to find a solution satisfactory for our members and the public interest. That process has to be transparent.”

Desmond Hudson continued:

”Our representatives on the committee must be congratulated on their hard work and commitment to the task. That time and effort has not been wasted as lessons have been learned. Some of the committee’s recommendations have been accepted by the master of the rolls. Occasions such as this - along with the success of our recent Court of Appeal interventions in connection with court sanctions - prove what an invaluable and irreplaceable asset the Society is to its members.

”The master of the rolls should also be congratulated on the stance that he has taken to seek more robust and relevant evidence before making his final decision.”

In today’s announcement, the master of the rolls made no changes to the current guideline hourly rates band rates because there was not ‘a sufficiently strong foundation on which to adopt the rates’ which were proposed. The Costs Committee’s recommendations, if implemented, would have resulted in many of the rates being reduced, some significantly.

Changes to the guideline hourly rates, which are to be introduced on 1 October 2014, are:

  • CILEX Fellows (eight years) will be eligible for Grade A rates.
  • Qualified Costs Lawyers will be eligible for Grade B or C rates.