Professional Deputy Costs Guidance

You should all now be aware that the Office of the Public Guardian and the SCCO have issued some guidance in respect of Professional Deputy Costs. In summary, here’s what you need to know:

  1. The SCCO Guideline Hourly rates will be allowed, except in exceptional circumstances
  2. Routine tasks such as arranging payments or checking bank statements should be delegated to a Grade D fee earner at best. There are also times when use of a non-fee earner would be considered appropriate
  3. Three minutes will generally be allowed for arranging payments of any kind
  4. One home visit per annum is appropriate, but more may be acceptable dependent on the needs of the case. Excessive contact with all parties should be limited
  5. Work in respect of welfare is not recoverable, without permission from the COP
  6. One senior fee earner will be allowed at investment strategy meetings
  7. File notes must be present to evidence the work carried out
  8. Office overheads ie. Research, perusing incoming correspondences, internal communications and supervision are not recoverable
  9. Three minutes will be allowed for short, routine correspondences
  10. Litigation costs should be appropriately claimed within the litigation proceedings
  11. Grade D rates will be allowed for the preparation of the bill of costs
  12. In hardship cases (net assets below £16,000.00), professional costs must be limited to 4.5% of the Protected Party’s estate per annum
  13. On the client’s death, professional costs should be agreed with the executor of the estate
  14. The OPG105 must be submitted to the SCCO with the bill of costs
  15. Bills of costs should be prepared and submitted on an annual basis

For further information, please go to the following link:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/538901/19_07_16_Professional_deputy_costs__FINAL.pdf

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to get in touch and we would be more than happy to assist you. Please contact CopCosts@clarionsolicitors.com or call 0113 246 0622.

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Philpott – Is it reasonable to claim for updating accounts ledgers?

It is common knowledge that the SCCO refer to certain case law when assessing Bills of Costs in Court of Protection matters. Although the Costs Officers assess your incurred costs using their own discretion as to what is reasonable and proportionate, there are a number of themes which can be identified from the assessments we are seeing. If something stands out in which case law has determined that it cannot be charged to the Protected Party, it will be reduced or disallowed upon assessment.

A more recent case has come to our attention as we have seen the case quoted more recently on provisionally assessed Bills of Costs. In the case of Philpott, the written judgement was not published, however the SCCO were able to share a few comments made by Master Haworth whilst delivering his judgement. Essentially, whereby time has been spent updating the Protected Party’s financial records or schedules of income and expenditure, this has been noted as an ‘office overhead’ in some instances.

During the delivery of his judgement, Master Haworth made the following comments inter alia:-

“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. 

I know that I have a number of further appeals on similar lines which may well result in a written judgment from me in due course.  Nonetheless, it may be helpful for you to circulate this memo to the Costs Officers in the interest of consistency in the future.”

 Resultantly, we recommend that this task is delegated appropriately to a Grade D fee earner or non-fee earner where possible.

If you have any queries in respect of the above, please do not hesitate to contact the Costs Team at COPCosts@clarionsolicitors.com

 

Internal Communications – Are They Recoverable?

As Law Costs Draftsman, we appreciate fee earners frustrations when it comes to recovering fee earner communications within Court of Protection matters. Unfortunately, Costs Officers tend to disregard inter-fee earner communications upon assessment, but there are ways to ensure that you do recover the time incurred reasonably and proportionately.

In the case of Garylee Grimsley (1998), it states that claims in respect of discussion between a solicitor, Deputy and his junior employees should be disallowed as these are considered to be covered by overheads. Memos passing between fee earners were also disallowed as they amounted to inter-office liaison which had not added anything to the value of the legal services provided.

However, based on our experience, the Court will consider inter-office liaisons where reasonably incurred. If the matter you are dealing with is particularly complex, it may be appropriate, and indeed more cost effective to seek the advice of a higher grade fee earner. If the matter is being dealt with by a paralegal or trainee solicitor where authority of the Deputy is required in order to progress the matter, this time is also recoverable.

If you encounter issues whereby the work is outside the realms of your expertise, the Court tends to recognise that it is necessary to seek guidance or advice from fee earners in other departments, if it will progress the matter. For example, if the matter is particularly contentious, it may be appropriate to obtain advice from a litigation solicitor.

Although there are a few exceptions to the Court’s allowance, you should never expect for inter-fee earner communications to be recovered. It is a matter for the Courts discretion and resultantly, there is no guarantee that they will allow for your time spent.

In order to maximise your costs recovery, it is key to remember to always prepare a file note, detailing what you have done, why you did it and how long you spent doing it. This will help justify your time and will increase the chances of recovery.

If you have any questions or queries in relation to this blog please contact Stephanie Kaye (stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com and 01133363402) or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 3363402.