Keoghs Insight


Helen Dale

Costs in a changing world

Costs Aware Autumn 2019

I don’t generally like to argue in my personal life, nor do I like to discuss money. How then I came to do both for a living, I am not quite certain, but in early 2003, I “fell” into a costs negotiator role, more or less by accident, and unexpectedly found a career that I loved instantly.

Armed with a dictaphone and a calculator, and clutching some trusty case law, I was tasked simply with making a saving on the claimant’s costs. With Fixed Recoverable Costs (FRC) on the horizon, I genuinely expected this to be a short term secondment.

Sixteen years later, the technology is better, the training most certainly is, and while the arguments may have shifted, the role of a costs negotiator is more relevant and crucial than ever.

The introduction and extension of FRC were intended to reduce the level of costs litigation, and provide a level of certainty for both parties. While these aims may have to some extent been achieved, it did not herald theanticipated “death of costs”.

The introduction of cost budgeting, case management, QOCS, the ongoing quest for a definition of “proportionality”, the Civil Liability Bill, the anticipated extension of fixed costs for cases up to £100,000, to name but a few items, all suggest that the role of a cost negotiator will never be obsolete (or even dull!), with the costs world constantly evolving. The arguments may change, but simply by nature of our adversarial legal system, and a motivated opponent, there will always be something to argue about!

We are living in exciting times. While costs may often have been considered something of an afterthought, to be dealt with once the main action has settled, there is a growing awareness that there is a real need for costs advice within the main action. Timely intervention by way of robust costs management, advice on tactics, the cost implications of a proposed approach, or wording of a settlement offer have the potential to affect the outcome of the main action, resulting in early settlement, a reduced cost liability, or even a costs recovery.

Keoghs employs in excess of 1700 staff members, with offices in seven locations throughout the country. We undertake all general insurance work from low value disputes to multi million pound claims. With such a depth of knowledge Keoghs are in a perfect position to observe and identify industry trends, and react accordingly, with targeted initiatives where appropriate. Staffed with truly passionate costs experts we are excited to be at the forefront of the costs litigation, never happy to settle for the status quo, and always keen to explore new legal horizons.

Keoghs is proud to be the driving force in areas such as proportionality (Reynolds v One Stop Shop), the costly perils of failing to file a complete budget at cost management stage (Page v RGC Restaurants), and the unsavoury practises of budget exaggeration (Tucker v Griffiths and Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust).

This shows how a well-considered approach to costs can result in significant savings on behalf of our clients. While such successes are truly well deserved and motivational, on a day to day basis, dedicated teams negotiate a high volume of FRC and lower value standard cost cases, resulting in savings we are very proud of.

The one thing, I think all costs negotiators share is a genuine pride in a job well done. Certainly this is a strong theme running throughout Keoghs. Whether the case is little or large, volume or specialist, we all take a huge pride in our work, our results, and our desire to provide an exceptional result.

The last 16 years have been a rollercoaster, in a constantly evolving legal environment, with a challenging class of opponents, and changing technology. I am confident that in the future the role for a cost negotiator will still be as complex, challenging, crucial, and rewarding as it is now.

For more information please contact Helen Dale, Senior Costs Negotiator.