Should P continue to have contact with her abusive partner?

In a recent case, A County Council v LW & Anor [2020], an application was brought by a Local Authority in relation to the Protected Party’s capacity. The Protected Party was 60 years of age, and three years prior to the application, the Protected Party was admitted to a unit. The Protected Party was initially detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. When the Protected Party was admitted to the unit, she was described as being in a ‘truly parlous condition’ and it was clear that her personal hygiene was neglected.

In 1991, the Protected Party had been diagnosed as having Bipolar Affective Disorder. However, the main concern in relation to the Protected Party’s life seemed to be the long term relationship she had formed. The judge described the relationship as being abusive, exploitative, coercive and wholly inimical to the Protected Party’s welfare. It became clear that she was emaciated due to her partner restricting her food intake, limiting her to one potato and salad per day. The abusive partner had also forbidden the Protected Party from wearing underwear and engaging in activities she enjoyed, such as playing the piano, in order to meet his distorted perceptions on religion.

Whilst the Protected Party had been residing at the unit, her partner had still been living in her property, which had been neglected and was in a state of disrepair. The Protected Party’s partner has declined various requests from the Local Authority for them to meet with him or to assess the property.

The entire team who surrounded the Protected Party had a shared view that she would benefit considerably from a complete cessation of contact with her abusive partner. An application was made to decide where she should live and whether or not she should continue to have contact with her abusive partner.

If the Protected Party was allowed to return to her property with the partner, it was considered that the Court would be exposing her to a regime of controlling and abusive behaviour which was certainly not within her best interests. It was agreed by the Court that contact should be ceased between the Protected Party and her abusive partner and that the Local Authority and the Property and Affairs Deputy would progress the matter in order to evict the partner from the Protected Party’s property, in her best interests.

Please contact Casey for more information at casey.mcgregor@clarionsolicitors.com

What is classed as a net-asset?

Following the case of Penntrust Ltd v West Berkshire District Council & Anor 2020, the ambiguity of whether property is classed as a net-asset when considering a Protected Party’s estate was clarified.

For the purpose of context, the Applicant was appointed as the Protected Party’s Deputy in October 2014 in relation to property and financial affairs.

In January 2019, an Application was made to discharge the of professional Deputy. The Deputy sought the authority for detailed costs assessment by the Senior Courts Costs Office for the work conducted to the date of discharge, even though the asset value (according to PD19B) was below £16,000, because the Protected Party’s property – valued in excess of £300,000 – was disregarded

The Deputyship Order in which the Applicant wished to rely upon contained authority that stated ‘The Deputy is entitled to fixed costs in relation to their application and to receive fixed costs or the general management of affairs of the Protected Party. If the Deputy would prefer the costs to be assessed, the order is to be treated as authority to the Senior Courts Cost Office to carry out a detailed assessment on the standard basis’.

The Protected Party’s liquid assets were substantially less than the £16,000 requirement for costs to be assessed and therefore only provided the Applicant with the fixed costs provision under Practice Direction 19B. It was imperative for costing purposes that the Protected Party’s property that they lived in be established as an asset to increase the asset worth, in order for the Applicant to seek detailed assessment and recover costs incurred throughout the management periods. Ordinarily, the property would be disregarded if the Protected Party or a dependent lived there.

Following the hearing, it was concluded that the term ‘net-assets’ in PD19B effective from April 2017, falls to be interpreted according to the ordinary meaning of the phrase, ‘total assets minus total liabilities’. This meant that the Protected Party’s property would be included within net-assets which resulted in the £16,000 threshold being exceeded, allowing for detailed assessment. It was also noted the Protected Party’s occupation of the property did not exclude it from quantification of assets in this case.

Following this inclusion of the property, the Applicant had sufficient authority to seek detailed assessment from the Senior Courts Costs Office.

In cases where fixed costs are not appropriate, professionals may apply to the Court for clarification if their order gives them authority for a detailed assessment of costs. However, it is noted that the use of fixed costs is still encouraged by the Courts. The provision of the £16,000 threshold does continue to apply if the net-assets of a Protected Party are below the specified amount.

It is positive that the Court recognised that it is not always appropriate to disregard the property as an asset and this case enables Deputies to apply to amend their Order allowing the property to be included as an asset, regardless of whether the Protected Party or a dependent lives there.

Please contact Ellis Tolan at 0113 288 5679 or email Ellis.Tolan@clarionsolicitors.com for more information.

5 reductions in COP assessments that you need to know about!

At Clarion, we deal with over 2,000 COP bills of costs per year and we monitor common reductions. Every case is completely different, but you do not need to simply accept the reductions made to your bill of costs and 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 5 recent reductions which we think should be on your radar.

Document time reductions

It is common for time spent on documents to be reduced or struck out 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. A good example of this is time relating to the OPG102 in exceptional cases, where the Protected Party’s liquid assets are high or their estate is particularly complex.

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’, however it 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’ or ‘no file note’, this should be challenged by simply providing the relevant file notes. 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.

Excessive contact with the Protected Party/Family/Case Managers

A common reduction is excessive contact with the Protected Party, their family or the Case Manager.  A high level of contact may be necessary for a number of reasons. The Protected Party might call the fee earner very regularly, or there might be issues with directly employed care team which would be vital for the Case Manager to deal with, communicating with the Deputy to resolve them properly, or a family member may act as the main point of contact. 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. We regularly see blanket reductions to high levels of contact, which can often be resolved during reassessment in the right cases.

Travel Reductions

Reductions to travel time aren’t common, however they do still occur. Travel reductions should be challenged if they are not reasonable. The Protected Party can often live very far from the Deputy and if the meeting is reasonable, the mode of transport is appropriate and the time spent is justified, a reduction of this kind should not be accepted.

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 Casey for more information at casey.mcgregor@clarionsolicitors.com

Can a non-solicitor Deputy charge fees at the solicitors’ rate?

In the recent case of The Office of Public Guardian v Andrew Riddle (Nos 1 and 2) Senior Judge Hilder had to decide if the professional Deputy could charge fees at the solicitors’ rate.

Background.

Mr Andrew Riddle is the managing director of ‘Professional Deputies’ that offers services that manage the property and affairs of adults who lack capacity. Mr Riddle is not a solicitor and Professional Deputies is not a Solicitors practice.

His primary position is that he should be able to charge fees at the solicitors’ rate, but he also had a secondary position in that he should be authorised to charge fees at a tailored rate, somewhere between public authority and solicitor rates.

The OPG’s position was that Mr Riddle should not be charging the solicitors’ rate until the Court of Protection makes an order to state otherwise.

Hearing

At the initial hearing, the Court was not satisfied that the deputy’s account of his qualifications and experience justified any conclusion that he should be remunerated at a higher rate than public authority deputies.

Judge Hilder held (at paragraph 104) that it would be appropriate to exercise the court’s discretion to extend the solicitors’ costs provisions to a non-solicitor deputy where that deputy demonstrates that they are also subject to professional obligations comparable to those integral to being a solicitor, and where that non-solicitor deputy accepts being held to the same standards as a solicitor. 

However, she considered the facts of the case and his experience and qualifications but was satisfied he did not fulfil these benchmarks.

She did acknowledged that Mr Riddle was not alone in requesting a review of the fixed rates under Practice Direction 19B, as the rates have not increased since 2010 and The Professional Deputies Forum argues that rates are now therefore 31% lower in real terms than they were in 2010.  She also noted that, there was a current review of solicitors’ guidelines rates in civil cases, which have also not been increased since 2010.

In paragraph 106, Judge Hilder observed that the rates of Practice Direction 19B should be similarly reviewed.  However, that does not provide any basis for unilaterally behaving as if the rates are other than as they are. Until there is a review, she could not give any weight to this part of Mr. Riddle’s argument as to do so would undermine the Practice Direction.

Senior Judge Hilder thereafter, made orders refusing Mr. Riddle’s applications for authorisation to charge fees at the solicitors’ rate and refused his applications for relief from liability for past charges. She also allowed Mr Riddle a period of time to make good his word and restore each estate to its rightful level.

At the second hearing, the judgement held that Mr Riddle had been good to his word, and that the Public Guardian did not now seek revocation of his appointment in those cases. The judgment also confirmed that Judge Hilder had refused his application to charge fees at anything other than the public authority rates.

It was also agreed that each party should bear their own costs, and the Judge rejected the claim for the Public Guardian to pay any part of his costs.

This case highlights that when non solicitor deputies are managing the property and affairs of those with incapacity; they should carefully check the specific terms in the Deputyship order to ensure their charging rates are in line with the order. If the Deputy has any doubts, they should contact the OPG and then if necessary, seek authority from the Court.

The judgement also gives the OPG the standing to challenge cases and bring these to the courts attention without the consequence of having a costs order made against them.

Brian Ferry is an Associate in the Costs and Litigation Funding Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact him at Brian.Ferry@clarionsolicitors.com and 07741 663809 or the Clarion Costs Team on 0113 246 0622.

Child Trust Funds and access for those who do not have mental capacity

From 1st of September 2020, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of teenagers can access their Child Trust Fund money given to them when they were born. The UK Government introduced the Child Trust Funds scheme in 2005 with the aim of ensuring that every child has savings at the age of 18.

Child Trust Funds gave between £250 and £1,000 of Government cash to all children born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011. Parents could add to the fund until the child turned 18, when they have access to the monies, plus interest.

However, there was no consideration for those who may not have the mental capacity to be able to access and manage their funds at the age of 18. It is predicted that tens of thousands of disabled children are affected and are disadvantaged.

If they do not have capacity, then their families or carers will need to apply to the Court of Protection to act as the child’s Deputy. It is estimated that the process can cost from £365.00 for the Court Application to £2,500.00 for solicitor involvement. This could potentially be a sum which may exceed the amount held in the Child Trust Fund in the first place. Furthermore, given the current position with COVID 19, there is potential for delays on applying which would add further pressure to Court resources.

Missing the deadline to access funds means that the money is switched into a new account by the Child Trust Fund provider, which are allowed to pay less interest under HM Revenue and Customs rules. There is a current campaign for change to the system to ensure that more children will be able access their funds without incurring large fees.

The hope is that the government will take a practical approach under these circumstances and that a procedure can be put in place which allows families to gain access to their children’s funds without the added expense and potential delay when applying through the Court of Protection.

Brian Ferry is a Costs Lawyer in the Costs Department at Clarion Solicitors. You can contact him on 07741 663809 or by email to Brian.Ferry@clarionsolicitors.com

OPG v DJN

In this case, the Office of Public Guardian applied to the Court of Protection to revoke a Lasting Power of Attorney that had been made by P, which appointed his son (DN) as his attorney. He subsequently lost capacity and concerns were raised as to whether or not P had the appropriate level of capacity at the time it was prepared. It had been investigated and concerns were raised that DN had not acted in the P’s best interests by selling his residence and transferring the majority of the proceeds to himself and mixing the finances by operating a joint account.

In December 2017, a district judge suspended the operation of the LPA and directed the appointment of an interim deputy. This order was formalised shortly after.

DN contested the substantive application. He maintained that P had capacity at all relevant times and denied any wrongdoing.

At the final hearing on 17 and 18 June 2019, the OPG’s application was dismissed, DN’s attorneyship was restored and the appointment of the interim Deputy was discharged.

DN sought an order for costs of £82,000 and argued that the hostile approach taken by the OPG was wrong. A detailed skeleton argument in support of the point that the OPG had behaved unreasonably in the matter was submitted for the court to justify departing from the normal costs rule.

The OPG rebutted this with arguments that its approach was not hostile but simply fulfilling its duties under s58 MCA 2005 and the Lasting Powers of Attorney, Enduring Powers of Attorney and Public Guardian Regulations 2017.

The Counsel for the OPG stated “In the alternative, if the court concluded that a costs order would leave P with insufficient funds, the court should make no order for costs. This would mean that the Public Guardian would bear his own costs and DN’s costs would be met from the monies he received from P.” Whatever position the court adopted, Ms Rich said that “this was certainly not a case where the Public Guardian should be made to pay the other party’s costs.”

Rule 19.2 of the Court of Protection Rules 2017 states that where proceedings concern P’s property and affairs, that the costs of the proceedings shall be paid by P or charged to P’s estate.

Rule 19.5 provides that: (1) the Court may depart from rules 19.2-19.4 if the circumstances so justify, and in deciding whether departure is justified the court would have regard to all the circumstances including; (a) the conduct of the parties.

The Public Guardian adopted what seemed to be a standard approach to litigation based on his approach to other cases. This was a serious failure especially when rule 1.4 COPR 2017 expects litigants to comply with the overriding objective. This obligation applies equally to the Public Guardian.

The judge concluded that there was good reason to depart from the usual costs rules as a result of the OPG failing to review the capacity evidence appropriately prior to commencing proceedings. Had this been done, the “obvious deficiencies” would have been noted.

Having consideration to the relevant law and the parties’ submissions, the order made was that the Public Guardian was not entitled to be paid his own costs from P’s funds and that he should pay 50% of DN’s costs (which shall include the costs of the appeal hearing) all of which shall be assessed at the Senior Courts Costs Office by a Costs Judge.

If you have any queries please contact Bridie Sanderson at bridie.sanderson@clarionsolicitors.com or 0113 336 3350.

Is it in P’s best interests for the Local Authority Deputy to be discharged?

The recent case of Cumbria County Council v A (2020) highlights the importance of the Deputy’s role and the process when the Local Authority no longer wishes to act as Deputy.

The Local Authority expressed a wish to cease being a property and affairs Deputy and instead, have a professional Deputy appointed for 7 individuals. However, the Court were mindful that this was likely to cost the Protected Party more than double in all cases to transfer from a Local Authority Deputy to a professional, therefore it was necessary to consider whether this was in the Protected Party’s best interests. The Public Guardian contended that generally, if a Deputy no longer consents to act, the Court cannot decline an Application to discharge, but the Court was required to consider all the facts.

The significant concern was the question of costs and there was suggestion that the Court should consider the approach taken by Cumbria County Council in no longer wishing to act as Deputy and whether this complied with Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010. The Court confirmed that they were not able to grant a public law remedy in such circumstances. Hayden J emphasised that The Mental Capacity Act 2005 and the Court of Protection reflect precisely the same philosophy and that was the underpinning of the Equality Act 2010.

Hayden J concluded that the decision to discharge a Deputy is one for the Court, acting within parameters of reasonable discretion and that they will be required to evaluate the strength of the welfare interests to the Protected Party. There can be no presumption of the conclusion and each application must be brought before the Court. The guide will always be in the Protected Party’s best interests, including his/her financial interests. The Court will focus on the impact of the Protected Party by either granting or refusing the Application. On the facts, the Application in this case was granted.

On the basis of the above, always consider the Protected Party’s best interests when determining who should be appointed as Deputy.

The judgment can be found here: https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCOP/2020/38.html

If you have any questions, please contact Tanya Foran at Tanya.Foran@clarionsolicitors.com or call 0113 246 3240.

Mis-Certification of a Bill of Costs – Be careful!

Back in May, I posted a Vlog about the SRA’s decision following the Court of Appeal’s Judgment in Gempride v Bamrah [2018] EWCA Civ 1367. You can view that Vlog here.

I was therefore very interested to read the recent decision of Master James in the case of Farmer v The Chief Constable of Lancashire [2019] EWHC B18 (Costs) and to share it with you. Here are the key points:

  1. Mr Farmer (“the Receiving Party”) had the benefit of a costs order against the Defendant (“the Paying Party”).
  2. A Bill of Costs was prepared, and detailed assessment proceedings were commenced. The original Bill of Costs totalled £174,565.79.
  3. There were issues over the validity of Conditional Fee Agreements, recoverability of success fees and incorrect hourly rates which led to the service of an amended bill in the sum of £116,192.50.  That total was also incorrect, and the Court found that the bill should have been drawn in the region of £66,000 to £69,000.
  4. The Bill of Costs had been certified as accurate and true. Certain points/items were also maintained through Replies and a Witness Statement.
  5. Had the Bill of Costs been prepared correctly, then the matter would have been dealt with under the Provisional Assessment scheme. This would have saved substantial time and cost for each party and the Court.
  6. There were also costs included in the Bill of Costs which were not recoverable inter-partes.
  7. The Paying party applied to strike out the remainder of the Bill of Costs, pursuant to CPR 44.11.
  8. The Court struck out the remainder of the Bill of Costs; the Receiving Party was entitled to nothing.
  9. The Receiving Party was ordered to pay the costs of the detailed assessment and re-pay the payments on account received.

In Gempride the penalty reduction was 50%. In this case the penalty reduction was a full strike out of the remainder of the costs (circa. £66,000.00 – £69,000.00).

It is fundamentally important to ensure a Bill of Costs has been prepared correctly before you certify it. Mis-certification of a Bill of Costs is a serious issue.

Mistakes happen and the Court will look more favourably on innocent mistakes which are rectified quickly. In this case, the Receiving Party pursued the matter to detailed assessment and maintained retainers that were clearly not enforceable.  

In my Vlog in May, I provided 5 tips to help ensure that you avoid any mis-certification issues. Please view the Vlog to help you check a Bill of Costs (or a costs budget or statement of costs for summary assessment) correctly and to stay clear of any mis-certification arguments and costs penalties. You might want to use my 5 tips to create an internal check-list.

This blog was written by Andrew McAulay. Andrew is a Partner at Clarion and the Head of the Costs and Litigation Funding Team. Andrew can be contacted on 0113 336 3334 or at andrew.mcaulay@clarionsolicitors.com

Lockdown Lowdown – The OPG

This blog forms part of a series of weekly interviews with several professionals during lockdown. It aims to inform Deputies and their teams about how each organisation within the field of Court of Protection has adapted to Covid-19 and what they should be aware of. Our fifth participant for Lockdown Lowdown is Ria Baxendale from the Office of the Public Guardian.

Q1. How have the OPG adapted to lockdown?

We have robust plans in place that ensure we can continue to deliver our services and we are working hard to maintain this. The deputyship team performance is being maintained throughout the period though it’s worth noting, that when the posting items to us, there can be some delays in receiving information and recommend using email where possible.

OPG remains committed to carrying out our duties, for example, in investigations we’ve prioritised those most at risk, to make sure those who need us most receive the service they deserve. At the moment, we aren’t undertaking assurance visits, however, we are keeping this under review in line with the Government guidance.

For our staff, their health and wellbeing is very important, we’re regularly updating our staff on advice provided by Government and Public Health England (PHE). We’ve displayed PHE posters in key areas to ensure our staff follow government advice. For those working in the office and as part of our plans to return more staff in the future, social distancing posters and one-way systems have been put in place in our offices to remind people and encourage them to maintain social distancing.

We have seen some areas of backlog during the processing of an application and have focused our overtime on clearing these backlogs and to try to maintain our target of 40 working days to process an application. During the past few months, we’ve seen a slight increase to 45 working days. We’ve also had a focus internally on staff wellbeing, creating specific sections on the intranet for staff to access information easily, we have regular all staff calls for updates and Q&A and wellbeing packs have been created with consideration for those who live alone for long weekends. Guidance has been created for OPG users for completing their roles during the COVID lockdown and is available on gov.uk

Q2. What impact do you think this will have on professional Deputies?

So far there is no impact on professional deputies in terms of the service we provide and usual workings. We are always striving to improve our systems to make reporting as easy as possible for deputies and to facilitate our supervision. Online reporting is now fully rolled out and we have received very positive feedback. We would encourage deputies to engage with us if there are areas in which they have suggestions for improvement.

In addition, we have just initiated a review of some of our supervision processes, we will be engaging our stakeholders throughout and will consider the impact on our users of any potential recommendations which this exercise generates. We operate in a culture of continuous improvement and welcome feedback at any time.

Q3. Have the OPG learnt anything so far from the pandemic?

Our main learnings during Covid-19 have been how we can adapt our current ways of working. We’ve enabled our contact centre staff to work from home, introduced new processes within our operations team allowing some areas of case work to be done from home and introduced an offsite printing and posting system for our mail.

We’ve seen an increased need in our digital services so we’ve shifted some focus to going digital as some of our processes are still very paper based. There’s been emphasis on Use an LPA, allowing donors and attorneys to share their LPA with banks and utility services by using an online code system which is currently in its private BETA phase. We’ve also learnt how important an LPA is to assist people in times such as this, and how important advance planning is so that people can act on your behalf when needed, which is why we created an entirely online version of our Your Voice Campaign. We’ve focused on raising awareness of LPAs within a new target audience, those from a BAME background, as they’ve been disproportionately affected by the virus. This campaign has been entirely focused online with the idea to increase uptake of lasting powers of attorney, or alternative to help them plan for the future.

Q4. Are the OPG still available by telephone?
Yes, our contact centre is still up and running. We have adapted to allow most of our staff to work from home with skeleton staff in the office. If you would like to speak to your dedicated case manager we would advise emailing the Professional Team and we will arrange for your case manager to call you.

Q5. What is the OPG’s priority at this time?

The OPG’s priority continues to be to fulfil its statutory functions. We continue to supervise and support deputies during this time.

Q6. Do the OPG have any feedback for professionals about the OPG105?

We would continue to encourage all professional deputies to provide as much detail as possible in their annual reports, including the cost sections. Where detailed information is provided, this significantly reduces the need for us to ask any further questions of you. The OPG appreciates that circumstances can change throughout the year, we would encourage you to keep us updated about these changes and any impact this may have on your costs by speaking to your case manager or by emailing opg.pro@publicguardian.gov.uk.

Q7. How have you been keeping busy during lockdown?

Workwise, I have been frantically working with my team on updating our online guidance to support people during this period and providing 24 hour turnaround policy advice to operational staff to help them deal with queries from the public.  A lot of the work has focused on managing the current situation, but I have also been progressing business as usual items as well in the margins, so that OPG can continue to move forward in its service delivery in the future.

Personally, I have a very active dog, who has got far too used to his personal assistant working from home, providing cuddles on demand, giving outdoor access whenever he likes and taking him to the park every day for a good run.  My cat, on the other hand, can’t wait for these human invaders to leave his house as they are interrupting his sleep schedule.  I have also discovered Netflix and Amazon Prime over this period.  I am an active and (not a very skilled) creative person, so there has also been a lot of drawing, sewing, writing and cookie decorating going on.  And, of course, reading my socks off.  I also have a major interest in diversity and inclusion, so have been educating myself on current events and how I can strive to be a better person coming out of lockdown than when I went in.

Q8. What are you most looking forward to after lockdown?

Honestly, I am quite a self-isolating, introverted person anyway – I really struggle with groups and people.  So, ironically, I can’t wait for all the shops, bars and gyms to reopen so that the people currently invading my sanctum of peace in the fields, woodlands and outdoor areas leave and return it to being a place where I don’t see anyone else on my walk.  Also, I make and decorate cookies as a hobby, and I have not been able to get the flour I need since lockdown started due to all the lockdown banana bread and sourdough baking  – so I’ll be grateful for the home baking to slow down so I am able to get the ingredients again for my hobby.  I will be grateful for the reduction of video conferences and screen time – sitting in a room and speaking to someone to have a break from the screen will be bliss for me – I feel like I’ve been surgically attached to my laptop.  Also, I’ve had some new staff start during this period, so meeting them in person will be nice, alongside catching up in person with everyone else – although not too many at a time, I’d find that overwhelming.

Overall, I think this has made me reflect on a lot of things and realised some of the privileges you take for granted – so I think I would like to say I am looking forward to being more grateful for the little things moving forward, which will hopefully make me a better human being.  I am not, however, looking forward to not having my dog as my co-worker everyday.

Clarion would like to thank Ria for taking part in Lockdown Lowdown and would like to thank the OPG for their tireless efforts in trying to improve this area of practice. Coming up in the series, we will be hearing from Lynsey Harrison from Clarion. If you would like to suggest another interviewee for Lockdown Lowdown, please contact Stephanie Kaye at stephanie.kaye@clarionsolicitors.com or call 0113 336 3402.