The Introduction of J-Codes: Are they right for you?
It is now only a matter of months until the long awaited J-codes – a set of costs codes designed to enable Judges and Costs’ Judges to summarise and analyse time worked and costs incurred throughout a case – come into force.
Deemed by some in the industry to be the ‘solution’ to streamlining the way costs are calculated and submitted following the conclusion of a claim, for others they are considered to be somewhat more ‘controversial and challenging’.
Regardless of personal stance, over the past twelve months the most diligent of Costs Lawyers across the country have been taking the time to understand the nuances of the system in order to be able to advise clients on the best course of action; with PIC rolling out a national training programme to ensure staff are up to speed on every aspect of the new codes.
Here the firm’s Chairperson, Teresa Aitken, talks about the changes that the J-Codes will bring about, as well as providing insight into measures that can be taken to ensure that firms continue to maximise profit on every case – whether they are embraced or not.
On the surface the introduction of a set of codes which are allocated to each task performed on a case is a great idea. Action taken, code assigned, job done. Only, in reality, the sheer volume and complexity of the codes, not to mention the potential pitfalls of getting it wrong, could make many set to embrace this new system think again.
There are over a thousand different permutations of the J-codes; and whilst many of the firms that have consulted with us over recent months start off thinking that the allocation of said codes can be delegated to a non fee-earner in the office, with further explanation it becomes clear that it is only the solicitor managing the case in hand that would really be able to do so with any sort of accuracy.
In addition to the codes, a description is required of the task which will be different from simply reiterating that which is contained within the attendance note itself.
It’s time consuming, and it will add a considerable number of non-billable hours to a lawyer’s time sheet. Not to mention that the software recommended to engage with the new J-Codes will be costly, as well as the risk of bills being submitted for approval by the courts being reduced significantly if errors are identified.
Here at PIC we have spent the last twelve months consulting with experts in the USA where a similar system was introduced approximately 20 years ago and, according to the leading Legal Costs Auditors in the USA, the whole premise has fallen flat there; with many firms reverting to more traditional costs calculations methods having been left considerably out of pocket as a result.
In order to take on increasing demand from clients across the country – who are reaching out for advice on whether to embrace the codes and invest in the necessary infrastructure to support it – we have invested considerably in establishing additional regional presences in the South West and the North East; as well as doubling our London-based team which operates out of offices on New Bridge Street, close to the Royal Courts of Justice, to serve clients in the capital and across the South East.
Our team has spent a considerable amount of time undergoing training in order to become au-fait with the codes themselves as well as to be in a position to advise our clients on what the best approach moving forward is for them.
In some instances, further to a review of current ways of working and existing IT infrastructure, we have concluded that a move towards adopting the J-codes is the right decision for some firms. However, with a sizeable financial outlay needed for specialist software, as well as significant training on how to correctly assign each of the 1000-plus codes, the vast majority of our clients have chosen not to embrace the change.
On hand to provide advice on J-codes, the PIC team can be contacted by calling 03458 72 76 78 or contacted via email at email@example.com