Can you recover costs for time spent communicating with in-house teams?

Often within a Deputyship, there is a necessity to instruct or obtain advice from specialists in other areas of law. Examples may include:

  • Where the Deputy is purchasing or selling a property on P’s behalf, which would warrant contact with the Conveyancing/Residential Property Team
  • Where P is assisted by directly employed carers, which may necessitate contact with the Employment Team, for example, in reviewing or amending contracts
  • Where a tax return is required, and the Deputy chooses to instruct the in-house Tax Team/Accountant to conduct a review of P’s finances, to prepare the tax return, and to advise on any liability
  • Where P is getting married, which may require input from the Family Team, for instance, in the drafting of a pre-nuptial agreement to ensure that P’s assets are protected

From the prospective of a Costs Draftsman, correspondence and meetings between the conducting fee earners in the Court of Protection Team and members of key in-house teams should be time recorded on the matter, and should be subsequently claimed when the Bill of Costs is prepared. This contact is essential in progressing P’s matter, and ultimately, if the in-house team had not been approached to provide input, then it is likely that an external provider would need to be instructed, with whom contact with would be allowed on assessment. Further to the recent decision in ACC & Others, Deputies should obtain three quotes for any work outside of their expertise before proceeding to instruct their in-house specialist, if it remains in P’s best interests to do so. You may also require further Court authority if the work is not covered by the Deputyship Order.

We recommend that all time is recorded for any contact and meetings with in-house teams, as this is largely recoverable upon assessment. For any telephone calls and meetings, it is beneficial to prepare a file note of the particular points discussed, to fully justify and warrant the contact. It’s also essential that it’s clear that those lawyers are from other specialisms, as if not, it may be viewed as any internal contact and could look like someone from the same team to the Costs Officer, which is more likely to be disallowed on assessment.

Ella Wilkinson is a Legal Apprentice in the Costs Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact her on 0113 288 5693 or by email to Ella.Wilkinson@clarionsolicitors.com

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