Professional deputy costs and how to maximise your recoveries
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
What is the approach taken by the SCCO and what to consider when recording your time. Below we talk about some of the more common reductions to General Management Bills, and how to ensure you are claiming your time correctly and maximising your costs.
The Court will only allow guideline rates except in the most exceptional cases.
Enhanced rates aren’t usually allowed in COP matters however, we have noticed an increase in allowances given to Grade D fee earners claiming a higher rate when undertaking more complex work, which would have otherwise been undertaken by a higher grade fee earner.
The above may be worth considering when you have a lower grade fee earner conducting a case. Someone’s experience will come into play when undertaking work, and having a fee earner on a lower grade conducting a case or dealing with complex matters may indeed justify claiming a higher blended rate.
The same principle would apply to an experienced fee earner undertaking work that is more complex in nature. Whilst guideline rates are recommended, you may be able to depart from guideline rates when dealing with an 'exceptional' matter.
What is considered 'exceptional' is a high test to satisfy and so there are never any guarantees a Court using their discretion would allow an enhanced hourly rate above the guidelines. At Aegis Costs, where an enhanced rate is applied to any specific work undertaken throughout the general management period, we will ensure to justify in the narrative of the Bill of Costs the fee earner's experience and provide reasons as to why we think it is reasonable to depart from the guideline hourly rates to ensure the Court is given as much information as possible.
Payment of bills and outstanding liabilities
The Court will only allow three-minute units in respect of paying bills either by electronic transfer, cheque, or enclosure letter. Many firms have already made the decision to claim three-minute units for work in this respect, as it provides them with a more realistic recovery against their WIP and avoids unnecessary reductions to the Bill of Costs.
Contact with the Protected Party and Representatives
The SCCO considers it appropriate to allow one home visit in each 12-month period in cases that are stable. Whilst this is the preferred approach, it is also accepted that in certain cases the Deputy may be required to visit P more often in order to meet the particular needs of the case. Should more than one yearly visit be required, the Deputy must be prepared to justify this with reference to their duties under the Mental Capacity Act.
The Court will only allow the cost of one fee earner to visit in all except in the most exceptional cases. The level of contact must not be excessive and professional deputies are expected to use their judgement in deciding the most cost-effective method of communication, whilst meeting the client’s needs without incurring excessive costs.
Any welfare work undertaken by a deputy appointed only to manage P’s property and financial affairs, will not be recoverable from P’s estate without permission from the COP.
Should it be justified, the deputy is expected to engage with appropriate professionals to deal with these matters or alternatively, the deputy may wish to consider it to be in P’s best interests to apply to the COP for the appointment of a health and welfare deputy.
The Bill of Costs must always be supported by documentary evidence such as attendance notes, failing which, costs are likely to be disallowed.
At Aegis Costs, we will always carefully review your file of papers to ensure that no attendance notes are missing and to ensure that all the work is evidenced within the file of papers. However, should there be any missing documents we will bring this to your attention so that you can locate the missing documents prior to submitting the Bill of Costs for assessment.
Work undertaken researching, perusing incoming correspondence, internal communication and supervision are deemed to be included into the deputy's overheads, except in exceptional circumstances.
We advise deputies to always prepare detailed attendance notes which clarify the work being undertaken, in order to justify the reason as to why it was required and how it was progressive to the case. An organised and detailed file of papers is the best tool to ensure the Court considers all the factors of the matter and to guarantee maximum recovery.
A three-minute unit is usually allowed for very short straightforward letters, emails or duplicate letters, for example to a financial institution or the client’s family. Should further time be required to prepare the same, please make sure to prepare an attendance note explaining why the time took as long as it did so that we can provide that information in the Bill of Costs in order to support the time claimed.
For the full practice guidance please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/professional-deputy-costs/professional-deputy-costs-web-version
*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.