Navigating the MoJ portal and fixed costs world
Sarah Robson gives the lowdown on Kerry Underwood 's new book on personal injury and costs
Kerry Underwood is the senior partner at Underwoods Solicitors, as well as an experienced legal trainer, with particular expertise in costs and funding issues. Who better, then, to write a book on this fast-moving area of law?
Many people would have shied away from this daunting task, but Underwood has produced an indispensable guide to help litigators navigate the world of the Ministry of Justice portal and related costs matters. It can only be described as the ‘go to’ text for this area of law, and it should be on every practitioner’s shelf.
Underwood’s style is not stuffy: the book is easy to read, and I am reminded of the sorts of conversations I would overhear as a pupil barrister, when members of chambers would come to my pupil master (now a silk) for his wise advice. He is always clear and practical, telling you what to do and, equally important, what not to do, pointing out potential pitfalls and how to avoid them. His advice comes from real experience; it is practical and useful. In particular, Underwood does not just guide you through how to deal with these types of cases, but explains how to do so in a profitable manner. Ultimately, we all aim to make money, and sometimes this can seem hard to do with low fixed costs.
These books are a fantastic addition to the library of both claimant and defendant litigators dealing with personal injury costs and funding at all levels. Since Qader v Esure  EWCA Civ 1109 decided that only once a claim is allocated to the multi track do you escape fixed costs under CPR 45 section IIIA, many litigators who are only used to dealing with ‘open’ costs are having to deal with fixed costs, and its many ‘ifs and buts’. This is the go to text for these areas of law.
Underwood has written this book as a reference tool, so that readers can dip in and out. The books are divided into clear sections, thereby minimising the need to dart around cross-referencing. Thus, you do not have to read it from cover to cover to ensure you have everything you need. He has also helpfully included the full texts of the three portal protocols, practice direction 8B, and CPR 45, so you do not even have to have a White Book to check the precise wording of a particular rule or provision.
As with any new legislation, there are always gaps and inconsistencies which need to be ironed out. Where there are such gaps, Underwood is not afraid to give his views on what the outcome will or should be in those circumstances, backed up with sound reasoning. His predictions are more often than not proved correct.
Sarah Robson is a barrister at Alpha Court Chambers
Kerry on… Personal Injury Small Claims, Portals and Fixed Costs by Kerry Underwood is published by Law Abroad Publishers