In an open judgement Mr Justice Warby said: “It is fair to note that some of the costs incurred on the claimants’ side are very high, and much higher than those claimed by the defendant.”
The judge drew attention to the fact that they were claiming roughly five times the amount that lawyers for this newspaper were for the preparation of witness statements – £472,757 compared with £80,942.
Mr Justice Warby said that Sir Philip’s lawyers were charging £190 an hour for a trainee and up to £690 an hour for a top lawyer. He noted that these fees are “well in excess” of the guideline rates are £126 and £409 per hour respectively. Other partners’ at the firm are claiming between £510 and £635 per hour.
Mr Justice Warby added: “Of course, fees in excess of the guidelines can be and often are allowed, and in this case the defendants … and I both accept that fees above those rates are justified. But not to the extent of the differences here.”
Schillings have been told that rates of more than £550 an hour cannot be justified and they must also reduce the charges for the time of their less qualified lawyers.
Mr Justice Warby added: “I also consider that the claimants’ estimates reflect an unnecessary degree of partner involvement, and a degree of overmanning that cannot be justified.”
He rejected their criticism of the Telegraph’s use of senior solicitors, saying that it was “proportionate”.
It is the latest development in a court case which has been running since July. After losing his fight for an injunction in the High Court, where a judge ruled that publication of the allegations would be overwhelmingly in the public interest, Sir Philip applied to the Court of Appeal .
In October the higher court overturned the earlier decision and ordered a speedy trial which is due to start on February 4.
By the time the Court of Appeal had made their decision Sir Philip’s legal team was already claiming to have wracked up £500,000 in costs.
Schillings has previously worked with Cristiano Ronaldo, Lance Armstrong and Ryan Giggs, individuals who have controversially made use of NDAs or injunctions to silence accusations of wrongdoing.