The costs of representing yourself

A successful litigant-in-person (LiP) may claim costs for the time they have spent preparing their case writes Andrew Granville Stafford, Chair of the Bar Council’s Direct Access Panel.

In a civil case (ie a claim in the county court or High Court) there is a standard rate of £19 per hour. This is set by the Civil Procedure Rules. However the rules allow a LiP to claim an enhanced rate if he or she can show that as a result of having to work on their case they suffered financial loss. This might be the case if, for example, the LiP is a self-employed professional and they lost business income as a result of spending time preparing for court. Note however that a claim for an enhanced hourly rate will be capped at two-thirds of the relevant solicitors’ rate and the court will expect to see evidence backing up the claim.

A LiP can also claim reasonable expenses and disbursements. These include court fees and may also include out-of-pocket expenses such as travel, photocopying and postage. They also include fees paid to a lawyer, such as a public access barrister, for advice and representation.

In a civil case the judge will decide any dispute as to whether costs claimed are reasonable or not. For hearings lasting less than a day this is usually done by way of a summary assessment (ie an assessment carried out by the judge on the day of the hearing). For longer or more complex cases this is done by a separate procedure called detailed assessment. The procedure for recovering (and indeed disputing) costs can by complicated and it is often sensible to get advice from a barrister, a solicitor or from specialist firms known as costs draftsmen.