Steps to curb rising legal costs

Steps to curb rising legal costs

SINGAPORE - To help people cope with rising legal costs, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon on Friday proposed a series of measures, from curbing fees to boosting free legal services, in a speech to mark the start of a new legal year.

The proposals also include reforming family justice, by getting unhappy parties to solve problems and repair relationships without having to go to court.

High on this year's to-do list is a pilot scheme, which will be implemented "soon", to change the framework of how costs are assessed in civil cases.

In selected High Court cases under the scheme, both sides will have to tell each other and the judge how much they estimate their costs to be, even before the trial begins.

These estimates will later serve as a guide when the judge decides on how to apportion costs, usually to the benefit of the winning party.

Typically, the issue of costs, which is different from damages in that it reimburses how much one side spent on legal fees, is raised only after the verdict here.

"It is hoped that we might no longer see the tendency for successful parties to inflate their cost claim even as losing parties object vehemently to sums that they themselves might not have hesitated to claim had the shoe been on the other foot," said CJ Menon.

Lawyers lauded the move, noting how this practice is already the norm elsewhere, like in Britain.

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