To modernise the bill, three requirements have to be satisfied:
- The bill must provide more transparent explanation than is currently provided, about what work was done in the various time periods and why.
- The bill must provide a user friendly synopsis of the work done, how long it took and why …
- The bill must be inexpensive to prepare.
… modern technology provides the solution.
As a part of the ongoing process of re-writing Quick on Costs, Roger Quick has written the first part of a new chapter on Billing. The chapter primarily covers what currently has to be done to prepare and deliver a valid bill, focused around the three key considerations of:
- what the bill seeks to recover;
- the person from whom the bill seeks to recover; and
- the nature of the work to which the bill relates.
With this chapter we also begin our consideration of the better bill. The better bill is one prepared with understanding of the place of a bill in the continuum of disclosure, retainer or costs agreement, assessment and recovery of costs. It is also one prepared with a weather eye on possible future developments – like the subject of the quote above from the Jackson Steering Committee in the UK. This derives from the attempts in the UK modernise the bill between parties to litigation by the use of a J-Code Set or a set of J Codes.
The better bill is thus one in which a solicitor or firm has taken stock of what technology must and can do in creating valid interim and final bills, training others, and monitoring that training, in the “do’s” and “don’ts” of costing, in the tricks and traps of recording work and time and in the processes of assessment. This should result in an ability to disclose fully, record correctly and bill reasonably, which will allow the preparation of final bills, that is bills for all the client’s work and not just unpaid work. That ability is essential to allow the use of assessment either to recover costs or to defend them, that is a defensive as well as an offensive use of assessment to increase success in the recovery of costs.
The new chapter addresses a number of contemporary problems in billing which arise under the present “two speed” system of regulation under first the Australian Consumer Law and then the Legal Profession Acts and Legal Profession Uniform Laws.
These problems include:
- When and how a solicitor can amend or withdraw a solicitor and client bill so that he or she is free to deliver a second bill under a legislative scheme of billing whereby a client’s solicitor has an option to deliver either a lump sum bill or an itemised bill and the client to whom a lump sum bill has been delivered has a statutory right to request an itemised bill “of the legal costs to which the bill relates”.
- The impact of the law of statutory interpretation. Increasing legislative activity has caused this to develop rapidly from a collection of maxims, signposts in Latin to statutory meaning. The study and use of this body of law has been authoritatively described as the most important single aspect of contemporary legal practice.
- The complexities of a current sixfold classification of solicitor and client bills under which bills are classifiable as interim or final bills, bills in lump sum form or bills in itemised form and conditional or unconditional bills.
- Whether a bill is always necessary to determine a solicitor’s remuneration.
- When and why a court will not allow time based computer time records, “WIP sheets” to stand as the itemised bill.
- How to fashion training materials to ensure these records reflect the requirements of the itemised bill both as to content and format.
For the full chapter on The Bill, see Quick on Costs. For a Westlaw AU trial or to talk to a Thomson Reuters representative about a subscription to the service, visit Thomson Reuters Legal Research.