Costs alert for lawyers

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The Independent Online
Lord Woolf, in charge of the biggest shake-up of the civil courts this century, warned lawyers yesterday that in future they will be expected to give a budget in advance for costs and be forced to stick to it.

The Law Lord appointed two years ago to improve the slow and expensive system is due to make his recommendations this summer. The Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has promised to implement them.

Lord Woolf told a seminar of lawyers in London last night that under the present system the costs of cases were often out of all proportion to the amount of damages being argued about. "We want to try to control what work is done and to give that work a budgeted cost."

He said he was confident lawyers were sufficiently skilled to provide and work within accurate budgets. It would be for judges to "hold the ring" and decide how much should be spent.

He also said there would be a bias built in to new guidelines in favour of those who settled cases without going to court.