Why are Attendance Notes necessary?
Attendance notes are an important tool in maximising the recovery of the Bill. These notes allow the deputy or fee earner working on the matter to explain and justify the time spent on each item, in particular, where a substantial amount of time has been spent. Providing the Court with details on the work undertaken, conversations had with any professionals or relatives of P, along with any consideration time spent progressing the case will ensure the best chance of full recovery.
Work that requires an Attendance Note
For any routine work such as emails, letters out and telephone calls charged at one unit each, attendance notes are not necessarily required however, it is still advised these are completed. It is worthwhile pointing out that a copy of the letter or email is usually sufficient evidence that the work has been carried out. We recommend that a short attendance note is used for the recording of shorter/routine calls, detailing the date the call was made, who made it (which fee earner) and they party upon whom the call was made or received. As you can imagine, the Court will not have the time to go through each individual item and reconcile each and every note. However, where there is work to be charged above one unit, this work would require an attendance note. The higher the charge time, the more detailed an attendance note should be. The costs officer may wish to inspect any note and that is why it is so important all notes are present.
What to include within an Attendance Note
The Court will specifically look for the attendance notes for all higher value items, therefore, it is important to include the following details to ensure these can be found within your file, which accompanies the bill on assessment:-
- The date of when the attendance note was completed – This is usually the first piece of information used to complete the search for a particular attendance note. There are occasions when the fee earner may prepare an attendance note on a different date to when the work was completed. The date should reflect the date of when the attendance note was completed. This also helps your draftsman to ensure the piece of work belongs within a particular billing period and/or that the correct hourly rate is applied.
- The name of the fee earner undertaking the work – If there are several attendance notes for the same date, including the name of the fee earners will help to easily identify the correct attendance note to be assessed.
- The amount of time being claimed for the work – It is vital to include the amount of time being claimed, to ensure it matches the time included on your ledger. Again, this will help the Court to identify the correct attendance note for the work being claimed and the Court will take this into account when reading the notes to ensure the time is justified. If the total amount of time included for your attendance notes includes work on more than one item e.g., Travel time and attending an annual visit to P, it is good practice to break the overall time down for each item, to enable these to be claimed appropriately within the bill of costs. This also assists the costs officer in assessing the reasonableness of the time spent.
- Details of the work undertaken, what to include –
- Firstly, if your attendance note is being prepared on a date different to when the work was undertaken, it is good practice to identify this at the start of your note to draw the Court’s attention to the correct piece of work being explained.
- Provide the Court with details of the work being claimed. Explain what was being considered and/or who with (e.g., P’s relative or a professional), all actions taken and the outcome of this work. This is especially important for items that claim larger amounts of time. Any follow up actions detailed will help to demonstrate the work undertaken was progressive to the matter and will also help justify the follow up work (e.g. this work was undertaken as agreed with P during recent call).
- If more than one fee earner was involved in this work, it is good practice to explain in your attendance note why this was necessary. A separate file note for the secondary fee earner is also recommended so as to remove any doubt in the costs officer’s mind that any duplication has arisen.
- Details of the work undertaken, what to avoid –
- We have found that when a fee earner includes time for being on hold whilst on a telephone call, the Court has reduced this time as it is felt the fee earner could utilise this time by completing other work. We appreciate this may not always be possible, given your office layout or the need to remain alert to when the call is answered, but consideration should be given to what routine tasks you might be able to undertake whilst on hold.
- Use of term research should be avoided. We would recommend “consideration” be used and stick to the facts of your own case to ensure the costs officer does not construe this to be your learning the tools of the trade.
How this can maximise recovery
The Court may wish to inspect any given attendance note, particularly if the time claimed is high. By providing supporting attendance notes for this work, along with details to explain and justify the time this will give you a greater chance of achieving full recovery. Whilst there is no guarantee, it is more likely time will be reduced without these attendance notes.
In short, the more you include the more chance you will have of achieving full recovery for the item.
I do hope you have found this article informative and useful. We at A&M Bacon are continuously looking at ways we can help our clients achieve the highest recovery possible. Should you have any queries following this article, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Our friendly team is always happy to assist.
Emma Allkins, Court of Protection Specialist