How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?
At what stage does a legitimate claim for legal costs become something rather different…
On an entirely different note, I came across the following in a bill of costs the other day:
20/07/2007 – Discussing strategy as to ATE insurance upon a lack of response. Confirming need to chase. (Senior Paralegal) – 6 minutes
20/07/2007 – Discussing strategy as to ATE insurance upon a lack of response. Confirming need to chase. Preparing a file note (Paralegal) – 12 minutes
There was presumably a corresponding chase-up telephone call claimed under routine communications (a further 6 minutes) as there was a further entry of 6 minutes for: “23/07/2007 – Preparing file note following telephone attendance with [ATE insurer] chasing response to application”. Ignoring the issue of whether work done in association with funding is recoverable, we therefore have a total of 30 minutes claimed in relation to making one chase-up telephone call due to a lack of response from the ATE insurer.
The matter was funded by way of a CFA with a 100% success fee. Even allowing for the fact the work was done by Grade C and D fee earners, by the time VAT is added a total of £151.58 is claimed for one chase-up telephone call.
The same bill also had these entries:
28/09/2009 – Discussing correspondence from defendant advising upon address of defendant. Discussing action to take in circumstances (Associate Solicitor) – 12 minutes
28/09/2009 – Discussing correspondence from defendant advising upon address of defendant. Discussing action to take in circumstances (Paralegal) – 12 minutes
The description of the correspondence is accurate. The email contained no other information. (We’ll ignore the general rule that “no separate charge is to be made for in-coming letters or e-mails” (CPD 4.16(1).)
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when the discussion took place between Tweedledum and Tweedledee arguing over what to do in light of this dramatic development in the case.
Defendant law costs draftsmen will probably have guessed which firm of solicitors had the cheek to serve this bill.
The courts do have the power to penalise on detailed assessment this type of inflated bill (under Part 47.18(2)(b) and (c)). Unfortunately, the courts are very slow to exercise this power even when bills are reduced by 40%+. It is unfortunate that the Jackson Costs Review did not propose a fixed penalty for those serving bills that are reduced by more than a certain margin. It is the absence of any clear sanction that encourages claimant solicitors to serve grossly inflated bills with impunity.