What you need to know about reductions to COP assessments

At Clarion, we deal with over 2,000 COP bills of costs per year and we monitor reductions upon assessment. Every case is different, but you do not need to accept the reductions made to your bill of costs if these are excessive or unreasonable alternatively, you can request a reassessment if appropriate to do so. We recognise the hard work that COP practitioners put into their matters and are passionate about working with our clients to help them recover fair and reasonable costs. Based on our experience, we have identified reductions which we think should be on your radar.

Reductions to the Document Schedule

It is common for time spent preparing documents to be reduced or disallowed where the Costs Officer considers it to be excessive, but it may be necessary to challenge these reductions. If you can provide reasonable justification as to the time spent, the necessity of the task at hand and the grade of fee earner undertaking the task, then it can be beneficial to provide more information to the Costs Officer and request that the reduction is reconsidered. Reductions which we have seen take a rising in recent assessments include disallowing time spent reviewing invoices and incoming correspondence, time spent conducting file reviews and time spent reconciling bank statements therefore, this is something you may see largely when receiving your assessment back from the SCCO.

Contact with Internal Teams

It is not uncommon for the Deputy to require support from another area of expertise in a management period or application. Examples could include the Conveyancing Team in respect of property matters, or the Employment Team regarding the directly employed care staff.  The contact with internal teams is commonly reduced as ‘inter-fee earner communication’, however this contact is often essential in progressing the matter. If an external team were to be instructed, the time would likely be much more costly, therefore the instruction of the internal team can often be in the Protected Party’s best interests. It can be beneficial to advise the Costs Officer of the situation and the necessity of the internal teams’ assistance, to allow them to reconsider reductions appropriately.

Lack of Evidence

Whereby the Costs Officer strikes out time due to the ‘lack of evidence’, ‘no file note’ or simply that the entry is ‘vague’. This should be challenged by providing the relevant file notes to allow the Costs Officer to decide whether the time was reasonable in context of the work completed. Evidence for all work done should be on file, but if something is missed, this can be provided retrospectively which allows the Costs Officer to reconsider the time they disallowed.

Reductions to Contact with the Protected Party/Family/Friends

A common reduction is excessive contact with the Protected Party, their family or their friends where a general reduction under the Trudy Samler decision may be applied.  A high level of contact may be necessary for a number of reasons. The Protected Party might call the fee earner very regularly, a family member may act as the main point of contact, or if there is ongoing Litigation, a family member/friend may be acting as Litigation Friend. If there are reasons behind the high levels of  contact, they should be set out to the Costs Officer to justify it and show that the time spent was proportionate to the matter.

Two Fee Earners in Attendance

It is not uncommon for two fee earners to attend a meeting however, it is unlikely that the Costs Officer will allow time for both fee earners unless under exceptional circumstances. There are some circumstances where we would deem the time claimed for both fee earners to be reasonable for example, if the other party were violent, two fee earners may be required for safety reasons, if the other party had made false allegations against the Deputy, it may be essential for a second fee earner to attend or if the party spoke a different language, it may be necessary for a bilingual fee earner to attend the meeting in order to translate. In the right case, with the provision of evidence to support the necessity of both fee earners in attendance, this reduction could be challenged.

Blended Hourly Rates

Where a higher grade fee earner has undertaken a large portion of work within the bill, a blended hourly rate may be applied to allow for sufficient delegation. There are many complex matters involved with managing the affairs of a Protected Party. Some examples of particularly complex matters required during a management period may be the sale and/or purchase of a property, investigation into misconduct of a previous attorney or high tensions with the involvement of the Protected Party’s family. Under complex matters, it may be necessary to utilise the expertise of a higher grade fee to limit the overall costs therefore, it could be beneficial to provide evidence as to the complexities at hand to allow the Costs Officer to reconsider the expertise which was required.

We are happy to advise any professional Deputy who is unhappy with the outcome of their assessment and continue to work with law firms nationally to help them recover fair and reasonable costs. Please contact Lydia for more information at lydia.marshall@clarionsolicitors.com

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