Page 29 - PIC Magazine Issue 21
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       Costs Officer
Sonia Ponceby-Thwaites
   Timothy, Gloucestershire
“Inquest Costs – what are your thoughts?”
My dear Tim, notes are as vital to your cost recovery as Hunter’s firm biceps were to me in the early 90s Gladiators. Deutsche Bank AG
v Sebastian Holdings Inc [2023] demonstrates how a lack of useful file notes can encourage a suitably frustrated Judge to make a suitably draconian order. Even away from costs, their relevance was made clear in Mundil-Williams v Williams & Ors [2021]. Always remember ‘WWH’ – What are you doing? Why are you doing it? How did it take so long?
If every note of substance answers these questions, your costs claim will be fortified, albeit not from Hunter’s oily thighs, which would break apart the mightiest embattlement.
William, Oxon
“Medical agency breakdowns, should I be worried?”
Perhaps the agencies should be worried, perhaps not; although yes,
in the context of the non-binding decision in Hoskins, your entire expert fee is put at risk. It is an old issue with a new sting. One wonders whether, where an agency decides that they will not provide a breakdown, if you were able to secure the underlying fee from the expert or other provider, assuming they are contractually able to provide this, that might be enough to salvage something?
Jane, Bawtry
“Does it really matter if I don’t name all of my paralegals in a bill?”
You’re a solicitor, not a mill owner, yes, your staff have names. The guidance is
clear that you should, but really you need to be going even further. Is your ‘senior’ paralegal with 25 years experience running reasonably complex litigation and able
to properly bill out at £200 per hour described as such, or merely labelled, “Geoff the paralegal”, or worse, “paralegal”. It is not complex really, if you want a higher rate, provide the information required to justify it. If you want to encourage the Court to slap your rate as I once slapped my husband when he told me about that time in Amsterdam, then provide the bare minimum and cry about it later.
Alexis, Cardiff
“Clinical negligence Fixed Costs 2023, should I be worried?”
Ah yes, they remind me of a house being constructed from plans drawn up by
a drunken barista. Frankly, it took almost a decade to understand the much less complex portal costs, I imagine satellite litigation will roll on for much longer here meaning the aim of fixed costs is imperilled before they even arrive. Also, have you dealt with the NHSR? They’re overworked and underfunded, and the more confusing the rules are, the less likely they will be able to comply. Subject to how things actually pan out, I do urge you to consider how Part 36 is going to work within this poorly drafted labyrinthine rule set (and remember the 9 September cut off).
   Mike, Bristol
“Do you have any advice to up and coming costs professionals?”
Keep calm. Really, so often I read Points or Replies resplendent in drama; “eye watering”, “outrageous” “ridiculous”, “astounded”, “preposterous” and other equally unhelpful exclamations. Really, just get to the point and stop feigning shock and horror, it isn’t impressive, and you really do just look rather silly, petty and, as Roald Dahl might say, somewhat of a grunion. Although I recall once reading some Replies describing the objections as a flotilla of argument with all the fragility of the Spanish Armada. That did, I confess, make me smile.
Babs, London
“Can you tell me one common pitfall you see?”
One? I could fill this article with pitfalls that even Indiana Jones would fail
to leap across. Yes one, very well, an untested but common pitfall is a retainer that decides to ignore the SCCO definitions and, instead, names each
fee earner who might work on that file, and then someone completely different steps up and no-one updates the client as to that fee earner rate. The indemnity principle is a harsh mistress, all rubber and heels, lacking in remorse or forgiveness, and unlike like Dr Jones, her smooth glistening whip will rarely help.
 If you would like to ask Costs Officer Sonia Ponceby-Thwaites a burning question in our next issue of Partners In Costs, please email: emma.woolley@pic.legal
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