Fixed Fees, The Elephant In The Room and The Force Awakens – Similarities?
Last week fans have been given a first glimpse of Han Solo in the new trailer for Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Harrison Ford last appeared in a Star Wars film more than 30 years ago when Return of the Jedi was released in 1983. He is still recovering after crashing his plane onto a golf course and was unable to attend the Star Wars celebration in Anaheim.
We all remember when Disney bought Lucasfilm, the company behind the Star Wars films, in 2012 and the release of the first teaser trailer for the The Force Awakens last November.
Also in November last year Mostyn J gave his famous judgement about fixed fees in J v J  EWHC 3654 (Fam) and in January this year the Financial Remedies Working Group has published their final report and also dealt with fixed fees.
We know that the new Star Wars film is due for release at Christmas, but how long do we have to wait until Fixed Fees, a very important element of the Jackson reforms, is implemented?
Last week Lord Dyson, the Master of the Rolls also opted for an indefinite freeze in the current guideline of hourly rates of litigation costs. In a statement, he said the rates, which have been frozen since 2010, will
‘remain in force for the foreseeable future, and will remain a component in the assessment of costs’. He also said with the new advance in technology and business practices businesses will make “greater use of fixed costs in litigation”.
With regard to fixed costs, Dyson said:
‘I have long advocated their wider application, and will continue to press this point to ministers and others in the hope that this important element of the Jackson reforms is implemented.’
Dyson goes on to say that despite the reduced ‘relevance’ of the rates, they remain the accepted default figures for costs calculations, partly because they save firms the time and effort involved in calculating a figure for specific jobs. Relying on rates that are widely accepted by the other side and by the judiciary also provides some certainty.
But what is about certainty for clients? We believe that clients have the right to know how much their case cost from the outset and should not be fobbed of with “cost estimates”, which can be varied along the process. These changes and revisions to cost estimates come for most of clients as an unaffordable and unexpected surprise, often at a time when their stress levels are already extremely high.
At Paradigm Family Law we believe that this is the time that we need to create a national benchmark for fixed fees. We have to use this golden opportunity for the legal profession to show the high value of legal services and the transparency we give to our clients. Let’s not wait until Star Wars Episode X is announced and nobody remembers Harrison Ford as Han Solo.