"The best preparation for good work tomorrow is to do good work today."
Time recording correctly and maintaining an organised file of papers are key steps to ensure your costs are maximised. Ensuring that each task is recorded and taking the time and effort to develop a systematic way of organising your file of papers can result in better recoveries when it comes to getting your Bill of Costs assessed by the Court.
Try the following as you record your time and create your filing system:
Start simple: Introduce a filing system that is relatively easy to use. You don’t want your filing system to be more stressful than the stress it is supposed to alleviate. Organise your file of papers in chronological order. A file of papers organised chronologically will not only help you locating documents quickly when required but, it will also aid the costs officer when reviewing your file of papers during the assessment of the Bill of Costs.
Time recording: Time recording is essential to ensure profitability. As far as it is practicable, always try to apportion your time accordingly. If undertaking different tasks, ensure to record your time separately, and as much as possible avoid 'lumping' time together. It is very easy to record time together when undertaking work dealing with the same issue however, this can prove ineffective on assessment, as your time can simply be reduced as a whole rather than being carefully considered on an item by item basis. When apportioning your time correctly (i.e. letters out, consideration, preparation, etc.) the time claimed throughout can be reasonably justified in the Bill of Costs, whilst time grouped together can prove to be incredibly hard to provide a justification as to how long each task took to complete. Unfortunately, poor time recording can ultimately lead to higher reductions to your time.
Detailed attendance notes: Any work undertaken throughout the general management period that isn't evidenced by an attendance note suffers the risk of being disallowed by the Court. The more detail you can include the better. Always ensure to include information regarding:
- Date the work was done.
-Time undertaken dealing with the case.
-Fee earner undertaking the work.
-Number of documents being reviewed.
- What work was undertaken.
- Points to be actioned and issues to be addressed.
Time for preparing attendance notes: Don't forget to claim time for preparing attendance notes, especially as these can sometimes be quite detailed and require a considerable amount of time to prepare. Pursuant to Brush v Bower, Cotton & Bower (1993), time preparing attendance notes is recoverable, provided the time preparing them is also recorded.
When preparing bills of costs for assessment, a costs draftsman will rely primarily on the information provided within your file of papers. The information provided within the letters, emails and attendance notes included in the file along with any electronic time-recording printouts, are the only information both the costs draftsman and the costs officer will have to know what work was undertaken, and to establish whether the time claimed is reasonable and proportionate to the case.
Whilst we may be able to include estimated time, provided that it is apparent from other evidence and documents in the file that work has been done but not recorded, if this work is not evidenced by a detailed attendance note, the time may still be disallowed by the Court on assessment.
Notwithstanding the above, work undertaken preparing the OPG102 and OPG105 for example, are clearly evidenced within the file and most likely would not require an attendance note. Unless of course, the time undertaken was unusually high, in which case we would advise you to prepare a note highlighting the reasons as to why the preparation of the report has taken longer than normal.
If you want to ensure maximum recovery of your profit costs, the best evidence you can rely on will be a detailed attendance note, either by way of a hard copy note on the file, a fully detailed ledger or a combination of both.
*Disclaimer: Please note, the information on the Aegis Costs website must be used for general information only and it does not constitute legal advice. All the articles reflect the position at the date of publication.