Page 19 - PIC-Magazine-Issue-22-Spring-Summer
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  File Notes & Files
Queries often arise with regard to how one should present their file for assessment. Things have moved on a great deal over the past few years, particularly following the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the SCCO, for the first time, inviting files to be provided in support of the assessment in electronic format. At A&M Bacon, we have seen a marked increase in files being provided to us electronically. However, it is worthwhile noting the court has specific wishes as to how these files should be presented to them.
They should be in a PDF format, with the SCCO reference and billing period clearly provided as
the file name. All work should be in chronological order. A single PDF is preferred, however, the SCCO will entertain additional PDF files, providing they
are clearly labelled. The purpose of providing files in chronological order is to ensure the files can be effectively used by the costs officers and they can locate and review any particular file note quickly and easily.
I have often said that it is unlikely the costs officers will have the time or inclination to review each and every file note, much less seek to reconcile each note with item of work claimed within the bill. However, should the costs officer wish to review a particular file note for a specific piece of work, and be unable to locate the corresponding note, it is this that leads to the risk of that piece of work being reduced, or even disallowed altogether.
It is, therefore, essential to ensure all supporting file notes are included within your file, be that a paper or electronic file.
What information should I include?
Remember! When, who, what and why!
It is useful to detail when the work was done by providing the date upon which the work was undertaken. This ensures the work belongs within
that particular general management billing period and enables your costs draftsman to ensure the appropriate hourly rate is applied, particularly important given the details above in relation to hourly rate changes.
Who undertook the work? Identify the name of the fee earner undertaking the work. Again this ensures the appropriate rate is applied. The SCCO look closely at the grade of fee earner and the nature of the work being undertaken, so be mindful that more routine work will be reduced if undertaken by a senior fee earner. Consider whether it might be appropriate to delegate certain tasks to more junior fee earners.
What was done? Bullet points can be a really useful and quick way of recording the work undertaken. Quantification of documents (both drafted and reviewed) can help the costs officer enormously, particularly when assessing preparation items, which can be difficult to recover fully.
Perhaps most importantly.... Why was this work being undertaken? How does the work completed help to progress the case and, crucially, how does this work in
P’s best interests? Identify any further work required as a result of your work done as this continues to help to justify further work required and completed during the court of the general management period.
This information helps everyone! It will help your colleagues, should you be absent from the office for any reason, as
they will know what is happening on the file. It will help
your costs draftsman, as they will know what work has been undertaken and will enable them to ensure sufficient detail is provided within the bill to explain the work done. Not
only does this assist with the individual item within the bill itself, but also assists in completing a thorough and detailed narrative to the bill, which in turn will assist in ensuring the costs claimed are recovered in full. Finally, this really helps the costs officers to determine the reasonableness of the work undertaken during the assessment. This also assists
in considering whether or not to appeal the first decision if something does not quite go your way!
I couldn’t complete a COP costs round up without mentioning the ongoing delays that the SCCO
are currently experiencing. Many readers will be well aware of these issues that have impacted your practices for a number of years now. During the course of 2023, these delays did not seem to improve, if anything seemed to grow longer.
It’s worth remembering that the updates provided by the SCCO relate to the “routine bills”, i.e. those bills that are assessed by the costs officers. Further delay might be incurred for any bill with profit costs claimed of over £35,000, (net of VAT and disbursements) as these bills are assessed by the Senior or Principle costs officer.
Our best advice we can provide here is to ensure you submit your file for bill drafting as soon as possible after the anniversary date of the order. By providing a complete and up to date file, this will ensure that any delay in preparing the bill is minimised. Further documents such as the court order authorising the assessment, an electronic (excel) version of your time ledger and accounts ledger and any further disbursement documents will all help to ensure your bill is completed in as short a timeframe as possible.
We are aware that recruitment of additional costs officers has begun and that given the COP E-bills should now be coming through, having been in for over a year at the time of writing, we are hopeful to see improvements throughout 2024.
We do hope this article has provided some food for thought and some tips as to how best to maximise and speed up your costs recovery. As ever, our friendly yet professional team are here to assist and answer any queries you might have. Spring & Summer 2024

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