Time Recording, Hourly Rates & Grade of Fee Earner
Welcome to the first of our Blogs designed to give you and your team the basic knowledge you require in respect of costs, this is a bite sized piece of information, we would be happy to discuss with you and your team more in depth detail, completely free of charge, simply give us a call or send us an email.
We thought we would start with the Basics of Time recording and what is and what is not recoverable from your opponent, we will also cover Grade of Fee Earner and hourly rates.
Time recording is often an area that confuses fee earners and they often ask whether or not something should be time recorded. Our response is that you should time record everything you do as this will be a management requirement of your firm, however not all of that time recording will be recoverable from your opponent and it is your Costs Professional's job to advise and to include only recoverable time within your Bill of Costs.
However, this becomes difficult for Multi-Track cases with electronic Bills. Lord Jackson’s vision was that every firm would have it’s own case management system, whereby solicitors could time record their work to include Phase, Task and Activity, which would then allow the solicitor to simply press a button and magically a Budget or Electronic Bill would appear (we will cover Phase, Task and Activity and electronic Bills in a later Blog).
Of course in reality it is not quite that simple as the solicitor would have to firstly make sure they have recorded the correct Phase, Task and Activity which, if you do not deal with this on a daily basis can be very confusing and time consuming. Secondly, they would have to make sure they remove all non-recoverable work, which again is very time consuming.
So, in our experience it simply is not working as it was intended to work and will continue to be this way until such time as solicitors are also proficient in costs.
Your safest option is to instruct a costs professional who will do all this work for you and who’s fees will be recoverable from the paying party.
What is and what is not recoverable? Or maybe simpler what is not recoverable?
In general, anything considered to be administrative, funding related, duplication, non-case progressive or excessive is not recoverable.
Administrative – Updating diary’s, general photocopying, arranging post and other such activities;
Funding Related – Anything to do with setting up retainers, risk assessments, attending the client to go through the retainer, costs update letters, insurance.
Duplication – Often there will be times where a fee earner has considered a document, then a second fee earner will consider the same, the paying party will argue that this was unnecessary and disproportionate.
Non-case progressive – This is an open topic but if the particular piece of work is not case progressive, such as a quick email to the client thanking him for dropping off documents etc will not be recovered.
Everything else, we would certainly argue, is recoverable so long as there is no excessive, unreasonable or excessive time.
All that would be required from you is a full and complete attendance note to evidence that work. We can not stress enough just how important it is that your file is as complete as possible i.e. full attendance notes evidencing the work on your time ledger, all correspondence present and the file in good order, if this is not present then life becomes very difficult on assessment as if it can not be evidenced then 9 times out of 10 the assessing Judge/Officer will disallow it. This become particularly true on Provisional Assessments as you are not afford the opportunity of arguing your point.
Grade of Fee Earner
It is important to understand that certain types of tasks will be considered for certain Grades of fee earner, i.e. preparing Court bundles, whilst a Grade A may consider the content of the Bundle, the paying party and the Court will not consider that putting that Bundle together is Grade A work and will almost certainly reduce this to Grade D or C rates.
The same will apply to corresponding with the client to arrange an appointment or other general activities.
Consideration will also be given to the complexity of the case, if it is a general, non-complex matter then you will almost certainly be reduced form Grade A to Grade C or B.
First and foremost, under the Indemnity Principal, you must not claim from your opponent more that you would charge your client, in essence this means that you can not claim higher than those rates contained within your retainer.
However, this does not mean that you will recover those rates, they still have to be proportionate to the proceedings.
During assessment and negotiations, the starting point for considering rates are those set by the Senior Courts Costs Office (SCCO). These rates are set for your geographical area. I must stress these are not set in stone and are simply a starting point (and are currently being reviewed).
However, you will often see in Points of Dispute served by the Defendant an argument that only guideline rates should be allowed.
A number of firms who deal with Clinical Negligence matters claim approximately £370 per hour for Grade A in Outer London (London 3 SCCO), this very often gets reduced to £300 to £320 per hour on assessment unless the matter is so complex that it warrant’s such a high departure from the guideline rates (£267 upper amount).
Therefore your hourly rates must be proportionate to the proceedings themselves.
It is also important to stress, and is often an area missed by Solicitors, is to ensure that you do regular costs update letters to your client, informing them of any rate increases, if you do not then you will not be able to recover the increased rates.
Next week to follow on from our discussion regarding time recording we will be dealing with Electronic Bills and Phase, Task and Activity.
Thank you for taking the time to read this Blog and we hope you found it helpful.
Of course, this is a snap shot, if you have any questions or wish to discuss the content any further, then please do not hesitate to contact us!