Costs - Disbursements


When talking about legal costs, and the recovery of legal costs from an opponent if you win a case and are awarded costs, the word disbursements is often used.

The rules of courts and tribunals which award costs often provide that a party which has no solicitor can claim the same disbursements which their solicitor would have made if they had had a solicitor. The rules might or might not allow some additional items to be claimed, and often these rules are complex, involving fine distinctions, but disbursements represent a kind of expenditure which is (relatively) easy to recognise and which is normally claimable whether a party has a solicitor or not. If a judge has a discretion whether to carry out a fast summary assessment of costs or, alternatively, order costs to be assessed by the long and expensive process of detailed assessment, the judge is more likely (all other things being equal) to be prepared to carry out a summary assessment (which is what most people awarded costs want) if only disbursements are claimed and the complex special rules for other items do not therefore need to be considered.  

A very clear example of a disbursement is the fee charged by most courts and tribunals when you start a case. Money paid out (or owed) to a barrister or expert witness is also a disbursement, but not everything paid out will automatically be an disbursement.     

Examples of Disbursements

  • Court/tribunal fees
  • Barrister's Fees
  • Expert Witness Fees - e.g. fees for an engineer, surveyor or other expert to provide a report, answer questions, or give evidence at a hearing
  • The fees of a private investigator engaged to trace witnesses and/or take statements
  • Mediator's Fees (if a mediation is held to explore the possibility of a settlement) and the cost of hiring rooms for the mediation
  • Charges by Bundledocs or other legal-case related document storage/bundle production service
  • Charges by a high street print shop for printing or scanning
  • Costs of a courier (where necessary to make a fast delivery)
  • Costs of a process server - e.g. for personal service of an order
  • Postage costs of a large parcel
  • The travel and overnight accommodation costs of witnesses giving evidence at trial 

Examples of expenditure which is not a disbursement 

  • Costs of general purpose software - e.g. Office 365
  • Paper and printer ink for use in your own printer
  • Ordinary postage costs
  • Telephone costs
  • The extra fuel costs of giving a witness a lift to court/tribunal             


This information page is designed to be used only by clients of John Antell who have entered into an agreement for the provision of legal services. The information in it is necessarily of a general nature and is intended to be used only in conjunction with specific advice to the individual client about the individual case. This information page should not be used by, or relied on, by anyone else.

This page was lasted updated in July 2018 Disclaimer