My philosophy in respect of providing costs drafting services is honesty and integrity. This, as our results have proven show quick and maximum recovery of costs.
Along with my current solicitor clients I’m also providing consultancy services to another ‘new’ costs drafting company (basically a competitor) and we have drafted a Bill for them as they are overloaded with work.
The bill I’ve drafted contains 2% estimated time as the file is full of attendance notes evidencing the time spent. The Solicitor client has asked for more time to be added where possible and so I’ve made some slight increases (a total increased profit costs of £365.80) and gave the following advice (which has to be relayed via the costs drafting company):
If the matter went to a paper detailed assessment hearing, 98% of the time claimed is backed up by paper evidence and so increasing the time much further to depart from the evidence would render the bill inaccurate and at risk from being struck out.
Yes, the advice is probably extreme but possible.
Without producing the slightly increased bill to the solicitor client, the costs drafting company has emailed me back saying their ACL member has taken a look at the schedules and pointed out areas on which we can claim more time. As a result they want me to make final amendments hopefully adding another £2k to the bill. They want me to add another 9.75 hours to the bill (despite the attendance notes on file supporting lower)!
This is my advice to all Solicitors:
1. By signing a Certificate to a Bill of Costs, you are effectively signing a Statement of Truth saying that the Bill is accurate. With many more cases being pushed to assessment stage and more and more Courts asking for the papers at Provisional Assessment, you have to be aware that if your Bill does not match the papers, the bill could be struck out as mis-certified.
2. If your Costs Drafting company does not give you advice regarding the signing of a certificate or regarding the content of your file against the bill, then you could find yourself in difficulty at a later stage and when it is too late to fix the problem (see my earlier post: 2nd July 2015)
3. It is therefore essential you instruct a Costs Draftsman with experience of not only costs, but also fee earning and advocacy to ensure your bill is tight and to obtain maximum and quick recovery of your costs.
4. Finally, be aware of those costs drafting firms who say phrases like ‘the more costs claimed, the more you will recover’. You already know it does not work – you wouldn’t take the same approach with your injured lay client, so why take the same approach with your costs.