Wensum Law Costs telephone number 01603 633500

LAW COSTS DRAFTSMEN | COSTS LAWYERS

Picture of a draftsman working on a publicly funded costs assessment.

Legally aided costs

Upon receipt of your file we sort all the papers in order to identify the costs limitation and any conditions imposed by the certificate and to determine the relevant authority for assessment if required. We identify any costs orders which could affect how the claim for costs is presented. If necessary, we liaise with you at this stage in order to resolve at the outset any issues which would otherwise delay the completion of the claim.

If the time limit for the claim for costs to be submitted is imminent we will prioritise your file to ensure that you incur no reduction for late submission.

We provide multiple copies of the relevant paperwork to be sent to your client and/or the court or the LAA as appropriate.

Your file will be returned with the bundle for assessment clearly identified and with copies of all relevant vouchers, public funding certificates and authorities for assessment appended to the bill of costs or LAA claim form.

We deal with all types of publicly funded civil cases in the Family Proceedings Court, county court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.

We carry out all necessary work to facilitate the claim for costs including:

Aiming to maximise your costs recovery

We aim to maximise your costs recovery. Wherever possible we will seek to claim a discretionary enhancement to reflect any exceptional features of the individual case and we will prepare a detailed justification for the same. Our experience enables us to identify work that might not be recorded on file and to include appropriate estimates where this occurs.

In the majority of cases our fees will be recovered in full under your client's certificate such that the cost to your firm of instructing us will be nil.

- Wensum Law Costs - St. Mary's House, Duke Street, Norwich, Norfolk, NR3 1QA - Tel: 01603 633500 - Fax: 01603 620276 - enquiries@wensumlawcosts.co.uk - Company No: 703 1978 - VAT No: 978 0410 06 - DX 5235 Norwich -

Bills of costs for detailed assessment for the court

We prepare bills for assessment in the county court, High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. In the majority of cases our fee will be included within the bill in full and hence recovered under your client's certificate such that the net cost of instructing us is nil.

Your file will be allocated to a named draftsman who will contact you on the day of receipt to confirm when the draft bill will be completed. At this stage, we will have undertaken an initial consideration of the papers so that we can raise any queries which arise and obtain your instructions in order to resolve the same, thereby avoiding any unnecessary delay in finalising the claim.

We identify all the costs conditions and costs limitations imposed by your client's certificate and we will liaise with you accordingly. When identifying the start date of the certificate we recognise that it may not coincide with the date upon which devolved powers were exercised and in the event of a discrepancy we will make explicit representations within the bill to ensure that you are properly remunerated for work which might appear at first glance not to be covered by the certificate. Work undertaken following the making of any final order will also be included within the bill as appropriate.

The overall claim for costs is justified by way of a detailed narrative describing the progress of the case and identifying any unusual features that caused a greater amount of work than might otherwise be expected.

Enhancements will be claimed whenever the circumstances justify the same. If you oppose counsel at court you should be entitled to a significant uplift, particularly in respect of contested hearings. If your client has mental health issues or a personality disorder then the extra level of care and responsibility on your part should be rewarded. If the evidence is factually complex it follows that an increased rate should apply to the time taken to prepare and peruse the same. We will identify all these issues and more, and we will claim the maximum enhancement that we feel able to justify.

Should you require, we will liaise with counsel and experts in order to obtain any outstanding fee notes and in the event of a delay being experienced in this regard we will keep you regularly updated so that there is never any need for you to chase for the return of your file.

All relevant vouchers, fee notes, legal aid certificates and authorities for assessment will be appended to the bill of costs for ease of reference and we will return your file with the bundle for assessment clearly identified.

We provide multiple copies of the bill to be forwarded on to the court, your client (if appropriate) and ultimately the LAA. If you require, we will be happy to email you the draft bill for checking in the first instance so that when the hard copies are returned all that remains for you to do is to complete the relevant certifications on the backsheet.

Several of our clients ask us to complete the relevant pages of the Claim 1, ready to be submitted to the LAA with the allocatur once the bill has been assessed by the court and we will be happy to do this at no extra cost.

LAA Claim 1s, Claim 1As and Claim 2s for assessment by the LAA

Your file will be allocated to a named draftsman who will contact you on the day of receipt to confirm when the draft claim will be completed. At this stage, we will have undertaken an initial consideration of the papers so that we can raise any queries which arise and obtain your instructions in order to resolve the same, thereby avoiding any unnecessary delay in finalising the claim.

As with bills of costs for assessment by the court, we identify all the costs conditions and costs limitations imposed by your client's certificate and we will liaise with you accordingly. When identifying the start date of the certificate we recognise that it may not coincide with the date upon which devolved powers were exercised and in the event of a discrepancy we will make explicit representations within the narrative section to ensure that you are properly remunerated for work which might appear at first glance not to be covered by the certificate. Work undertaken following the making of any final order will also be included within the claim as appropriate.

Discretionary enhancements are often overlooked when preparing claims for assessment by the LAA. In most cases the regulations allow for an enhancement of up to 50% and if the case is of sufficient complexity to justify 50% enhancement in respect of certain items of work then that is precisely what we will claim. When considering the papers in order to cost your file we will look for any unusual or complex features of the case, specifically with a view to claiming an uplift where appropriate and hence to maximising your claim.

We continually monitor the LAA assessment guidance and we seek feedback from our clients to enable us to take a proactive approach in terms of presenting the claim for costs in such a way as to ensure, as far as possible, that the LAA does not disallow any work reasonably undertaken such that you recover the maximum payment to which you are entitled.

In the event of the LAA rejecting the claim (for any one of an increasing number of reasons) we will advise you of the merits of the LAA's decision and we will settle all necessary correspondence on your behalf in order to resolve the problem with no extra cost or inconvenience to you.

Should you require, we will liaise with counsel and experts in order to obtain any outstanding fee notes and in the event of a delay being experienced in this regard we will keep you regularly updated so that there is never any need for you to chase for the return of your file.

All relevant vouchers, fee notes, public funding certificates and authorities for expenditure will be appended to the claim form for ease of reference and we will return your file with the bundle for assessment clearly identified.

We provide multiple copies of the claim to be forwarded on to your client and the LAA. If you require, we will be happy to email you the claim for checking in the first instance so that when the hard copies are returned all that remains for you to do is simply to sign and certify the claim form.

In the majority of cases our fee will be included within the claim in full and hence recovered under your client's certificate such that the net cost of instructing us is nil.

Interim costs estimates

Increasingly our clients are instructing us during the case to provide interim costs estimates. The benefit of this is twofold. Firstly, you will have reliable figures from which to check whether you need to extend the financial limit of your client's certificate - we will also factor in any potential enhancements when advising you whether the existing certificate limit might be compromised. This can be helpful in terms of cash flow. Secondly, we will have the opportunity to advise you of any potential issues in relation to the final claim for costs such that you will be able to take steps to rectify the same while the case is ongoing and thereby ensure that, once the matter has concluded, the claim for costs can be progressed without delay.

We appreciate that in circumstances where the case is ongoing you may be reluctant to be without the files for any longer than is absolutely necessary. In almost all cases we will return the files to you within five days. Alternatively, if you indicate to us in advance when the files are likely to arrive we will set aside time in our workplan with a view to completing the interim estimate the same day in order that the files will be back with you by return.

We will incorporate our charges within the estimate. You can seek reimbursement by way of a payment on account from the LAA or, at the conclusion of the case, our fees will be included within the final claim for costs to be recovered under your client's certificate in full.

Detailed assessment hearings

Although we are confident that the manner in which we prepare bills of costs and the justification that we provide in support of the work set out within the bill maximises your prospects of recovering your costs in full there will nevertheless be occasions when certain reductions are made on provisional assessment by the court. In the event that you are dissatisfied with the provisional assessment of your bill, we will be happy to advise on the merits of requesting a detailed assessment hearing and thereafter to conduct the hearing on your behalf if appropriate.

Alternatively, it may be that your client wishes to challenge the bill where he or she has a financial interest in the claim for costs. In such circumstances your client will be required to provide written confirmation of the nature of his or her objections to your costs. If your client is acting in person the detailed assessment proceedings can appear to be a confusing process. We can assist. We will initially adopt a conciliatory approach and seek to explain away your client's objections by way of written responses justifying the costs incurred throughout the case. We have found that lay clients tend to respond well to input from an "independent" costs draftsman and that any objections can be resolved in correspondence and without the need to proceed to detailed assessment.

On certain occasions a detailed assessment hearing will be necessary. Whether the hearing proceeds in your local court or in the Senior Courts Costs Office we will be happy to attend on your behalf. We will liaise with you in relation to the appropriate time estimate for the hearing and we will lodge the bundle for assessment at court if necessary.

Following the hearing we will provide a detailed report setting out the various decisions made by the court and the reasons for the same. We will cast the bill, ready to be returned to the court with the allocatur for sealing. In the majority of cases our charges for preparing for and conducting the hearing will be summarily assessed by the court in full. Our fees will be included within the costs of assessment section of the allocateur for payment by the LAA under your client's certificate.

High costs case plans

Since the reduction in the high costs threshold from 125,000 to 25,000 there has naturally been a marked increase in the number of cases that become high costs. We have prepared numerous case plans in a wide range of cases, both family and non-family, and we deal regularly with the special cases units in Reading, Jarrow and London.

In the last year alone we have negotiated contracts worth in excess of 5m.

The first thing that we do is talk to you. If high costs case plans are new to you we will give you practical advice regarding the context and timing of the necessary submissions to the LAA. Although there are certain procedures which the LAA expects to be followed, the caseworkers appreciate that circumstances often dictate that a case plan cannot be prepared immediately due to the dynamic nature of the underlying proceedings. The approach adopted by the LAA can vary significantly depending on the circumstances of the individual case and the preference of the caseworker to whom the matter is assigned.

Once a timescale has been agreed with the LAA, we will liaise with you as to when you will be in a position to release the files. This will enable us to set aside time in advance so that when the files arrive we will be able to start work immediately and return the files to you as soon as possible.

We will calculate the "pre-contract" costs and prepare a detailed LAA Claim 1 in respect of the same. Then we prepare the case plan itself. If you require your files to be returned urgently we will take copies of the relevant documentation that we need to complete the case plan, and we will return the files to you without delay.

The case plan includes a detailed summary of the progress of the case and this supports the claim in respect of the pre-contract costs. We will identify any exceptional features of the case and claim an enhancement to reflect the same, typically 50% or more.

Our experience enables us to accurately predict the future work that is likely to be required to progress the case to conclusion and to calculate the "post-contract" costs to be incurred. Naturally, we will liaise with you at this stage in order to discuss the position in relation to future experts' fees and use of counsel and to ensure that you are satisfied with our analysis of the outstanding work required. We are happy to liaise with chambers on your behalf so as to obtain all the information necessary to support the figures claimed in respect of counsel's fees, whether under the FGF scheme, the Family Advocacy Scheme, on an hourly rates basis or in accordance with the events model.

Once the case plan is complete we will provide multiple copies of the paperwork to be forwarded on to your client and the LSC. We also provide a bundle of supporting vouchers, certificates and orders to support the claim for pre-contract costs and to evince the existing timetable and any previous directions in relation to the instruction of experts etc.

Alternatively, we would be happy to submit the case plan directly to the LAA on your behalf, to prepare further submissions in support of the proposed contract price and to deal with any subsequent negotiations which will almost invariably be necessary prior to the eventual agreement of the contract.

The regulations allow for the time engaged preparing the case plan to be included within the stage costs and we will factor in sufficient time to cover our charges such that the net cost to your firm of instructing us will be nil.

Appeals against provisional assessment

We have found that the LAA is increasingly taking a strict approach to its assessment of claims for costs and reducing or rejecting claims for a myriad of reasons. By monitoring the outcome of LAA assessments we are able to pre-empt the majority of adverse decisions in this regard and to prepare your claim for costs in such a way as to maximise the likelihood of the claim being paid in full and without unnecessary delay.

Where a claim for costs is reduced on provisional assessment we will advise you as to the merits of an appeal and we will prepare written representations on your behalf if appropriate. We have successfully challenged numerous unsatisfactory decisions by the LAA, whether in relation to profit costs, disbursements or counsel's fees, and the result has usually been to secure payment of the costs in full.

Instructing us in relation to challenges to LAA decisions affords us the opportunity to monitor any developments in the LAA decision making process such that we are able to update our approach accordingly. Furthermore, we view such work as part of our overall service and in view of the same we prefer not to make a charge for advising on appeals against provisional assessment.

Complete costing service

We have a standing arrangement with certain of our clients whereby, having prepared the bill of costs, we are then instructed to carry out all necessary work to conclude the assessment.

We will send you copies of the draft bill for your approval. Once you have returned the bill, duly signed and certified, we will lodge the bill at court with the relevant request for assessment. We will also send a copy of the bill to your client if appropriate.

If the provisionally assessed bill is not received back from the court within a reasonable period we will chase the matter up on your behalf and we will keep you advised of the position in this regard. As soon as the bill is received we will either liaise with you in the event that the costs are not allowed in full in order to determine whether to pursue an appeal or we will simply complete the allocatur and arrange for the same to be sealed by the court. We will then complete the relevant pages of the LAA Claim 1 to be sent to the LAA with a copy of the allocateur and the assessed bill.

Accordingly, the only input required of you will be to sign the bill of costs at the outset and then send off the final papers to the LAA at the conclusion. If you prefer your time to be spent undertaking fee earning work we are confident that you will find our complete costing service a welcome relief, particularly since all our charges will be incorporated within the bill of costs for payment under your client's certificate in full.