A High Court judge has told Associated Newspapers Ltd to lower a “disproportionate” legal costs budget, in suggesting the Daily Mail owner should reconsider its use of “expensive” lawyers from US law firm Baker McKenzie paid more than £800 an hour.
Judge Roger ter Haar KC told Associated Newspapers to revise its £3.18m legal costs estimate down by around 15 per cent, as he said the Daily Mail owner should consider allocating more of the work to lower paid junior lawyers.
The London judge said Associated Newspapers’ £3.18m costs estimate is “so disproportionate to the sums at stake or the length and complexity of the case that something has clearly gone wrong.”
The costs estimate sits in relation to a £10m dispute between Associated Newspapers Ltd and building contractor Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd, over construction of a printing facility.
The dispute is set to be heard in court during a 12-day long trial.
The judge noted Associated Newspapers’ £3.18m costs estimated exceeded Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd’s £1.87m budget by a “significant margin”.
In explaining the discrepancy, he said “the most important difference between the parties is the amount of the hourly rates charged by the respective solicitors”.
He noted Associated Newspapers’ top paid lawyers from US firm Baker McKenzie charged £801 an hour, while Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd’s highest paid lawyers charged just more than a quarter of that amount, at £215 an hour.
The judge said that while it is within Associated Newspapers’ right to “make use of expensive and experienced lawyers,” it should also consider delegating work to more junior lawyers.
The judge gave Associated Newspapers an “opportunity to come back with a revised budget taking this view into account” as he ruled its costs estimates should be lowered by about 15 per cent.