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Costs in the court of protection Peter Jones Costs Manager At R Costings, our drafting team, consisting of Costs Lawyers and Law Costs Draftsmen, specialise in drafting detailed Bills of Costs. One of the areas we specialise is costs in the Court of Protection. Costs Lawyers can help the Court of Protection Deputies manage their General Management costs by advising on the costs which are recoverable, whilst recognising the often sensitive nature of these cases. T he Court Order or Direction will state whether fixed costs or remuneration applies, or whether there is to be a Detailed Assessment by a Costs Officer. Where a Court Order or Direction provides for a Detailed Assessment of costs, the Deputy may elect to take fixed costs or remuneration in lieu of a Detailed Assessment. Where a Deputy does not elect to take fixed costs, a Costs Lawyer needs to be instructed to prepare a detailed Bill of Costs in respect of the General Management costs. The overriding objective for a Deputy of the Court of Protection, or for Solicitors advising a lay Deputy; is to look after the interest of the Patient. Cases in this area are growing in size and complexity and it is important that a Deputy of the Court of Protection, or for Solicitors advising a lay Deputy, that they receive fair and just remuneration for this important work. The matter of Leighanne Radcliffe, before Master O’Hare on 20 December 2004, dealt with arguments as to what could and could not be recovered upon assessment of a Bill arising from General Management costs. The Bill of Costs submitted was in relation to General Management costs for the period 14 August 2002 to 13 August 2003, whereby the Provisional Assessment was not accepted and the matter proceeded to a formal Detailed Assessment (conducted by exchange of letters). Thereafter, permission to Appeal was granted. The Appeal was heard before Master O’Hare. Two aspects of the decision made by Costs Officer Sainthouse were challenged, namely; inter- fee earner discussions and time spent on letters said to enclose simple invoices and payments thereof. Turning firstly to inter-fee earner discussions, Master O’Hare followed the principles set out as per R v Sandhu, 29 November 1984, reported in the Lord Chancellor’s Department Taxing 8 Compendium. He ruled that time spent with regard to “supervision of staff with regard to the conduct of the case, allocation of accounts, listing difficulties, use of Enquiry Agents, evidence and other related matter should be disallowed”. He commented at paragraph 20: “In my judgment it is always, or almost always, inappropriate for a claim to be made for letters sent by one fee earner to another in the same firm. The allocation of tasks between them is part of the irrecoverable overhead of the firm. If the senior fee earner needs to be informed of some aspect of a matter, he should simply read the relevant attendance note when the file is sent to him”. Master O’Hare did however state that inter-fee earner discussions should be allowed in a situation whereby “an unexpected turn of events where the senior solicitor’s extra experience and weight would be an essential reinforcement”. Deputies therefore need to bear in mind that inter-fee earner communication which had not added anything to the value of the legal proceedings will not be allowed when the matter is provisionally assessed by the SCCO. Turning to time spent on letters said to enclose simple invoices and payments thereof, Master O’Hare gave guidance and allowed 3 minutes per letter as reasonable, stating that “where the volume of Bill paying letters is high, I do not think it is appropriate to apply the general 6 minute allowance to each of them”. The letters in question are payments of bills for water bills, electricity bills, telephone bills, satellite TV bills and the like and Master O’Hare further stated “in making that allowance I would disallow the extra time for generally “looking after the matter””. A Deputy needs to record detailed contemporaneous attendance notes when incurring time so as to maximise their costs recovery. For example, if the case takes “an unexpected turn of events”, then record this on the attendance note to explain why the inter-fee