At Clarion, we prepare over 2500 Court of Protection bills of costs per yearto be assessed by the Senior Court Costs Office. We also review the bills once they have been assessed and monitor the common reductions. Based on our experience, we have identified the 5 most common reductions and the reasoning behind the same. The below 5 reductions are in line with published case law and are therefore not likely to be allowed if a re-assessment is requested.
You may notice that arranging payments are reduced throughout the bill of costs. This is in line with the Case of Jamie Walker (2002) whereby Master O’Hare defined checking the file to ensure an invoice has not already been paid, checking sufficient funds are in the account and writing a cheque and getting it signed as non-fee earner work. Arranging payments and considering invoices are typically reduced to 3 minutes within the bill of costs at Grade D rates in line with this. We therefore suggest payments and considering invoices are delegated to a Grade D fee earner. This is something that the Professional Deputies Forum would like to challenge in the future, as significant payments require consideration and often approval above Grade D rates. We hope that this case law will be reconsidered in the future.
Where you may have sent a letter enclosing payment of an invoice or an email confirming settlement of an invoice, this will be classed as an ‘enclosure letter’. In line with the case of Leighanne Radcliffe (2004), letters were reduced from the standard rate of 6 minutes to 3 minutes within the bill of costs. We therefore recommend that enclosure letters are delegated to a junior fee earner and the time is limited where possible to prevent overbilling.
Two fee earners at an attendance
If you have claimed two fee earners in attendance, in our experience, it will only be allowed in exceptional circumstances. Typically, the second fee earner’s time is struck out or reduced. In the case of Garylee Grimsley (1998) and further to R v LegalAid Board Ex Parte Bruce (1991), two fee earners at an attendance were reduced as it was deemed to be duplicative work. It stated, “in so far as expense is involved in adding to this stock in trade, it is an overhead expense and not something that can be charged to the client”. Therefore, we recommend that two fee earners should only be claimed at an attendance whereby it is necessary and reasonable to do so, as there is a higher cost to the Protected Party. Cases where two fee earners may be considered reasonable are where there is a significant safety risk or the second fee earner has different expertise, but this time is still subject to assessment and it’s important that the reasoning is clear within your file notes to justify the attendance of both fee earners.
High level of contact with the Protected Party
You may see a reduction occur whereby there is a high level of contact with the Protected Party, as it is seen to be the Deputy’s duty to keep the costs at a minimum for the Protected Party. Excessive contact would lead to a higher level of costs, which is not in the best interests of the Protected Party. A reduction could occur in line with the case of Trudy Samler (2001). This case raises the question of whether the contact was instigated by the Protected Party and whether the Deputy should be paid for such contact. Excessive contact with the Protected Party could therefore be reduced due to this case and we recommend that Deputy’s keep an eye on this. We recommend that Deputies try and manage the levels of contact with any party and involve other professionals to support the Protected Party or their family in order to manage costs.
Work in relation to updating the Protected Party’s financial records is typically reduced by the Costs Officers on assessment. In the case of Philpott (2015- unwritten), Master Haworth stated “It seems to me that the inputting of data into P’s ledger is not fee earning work. At most it is bookkeeping which, to my mind, is an overhead of a solicitor’s practice. This work has to be distinguished from for example, reviewing or perusing the data to come to a decision as to what then needs to be done with a P’s funds. To my mind that may well amount to fee earning work for which the solicitors can charge separately at the appropriate rate.” Therefore, we recommend that the work is distinguished in this way in order to avoid the reduction on assessment and the word ‘updating’ should also be avoided.
We are happy to review the assessed bills and provide advice to any professional Deputy who is not happy with the outcome of their assessment. Please contact Casey for more information at email@example.com