When may a subsequent meeting be chargeable? Importance of ‘advancing the case’
A meeting with a client is only chargeable where it is clear from the account that you have given or received material advice which advances the proceedings for which advice and assistance (or ABWOR) is available. Showing in the account that some development since the last contact with the client needs discussion or further instructions, will certainly help justify the meeting. A good account should contain a brief narrative of this information including the primary purpose of the meeting. We will not pay for a meeting where it is apparent from the surrounding circumstances that a meeting was not at that stage appropriate or necessary to advance the case, but a result of the client calling in at the office.
An adequate narrative is all the more important in supporting a claim for a lengthy meeting, especially where there is a course of meetings over a short time; you need to distinguish the purpose of each meeting to justify the additional expense, or we will abate the charges for the apparently unnecessary meetings.
Factors we consider in deciding whether meeting-related charges are reasonable
Factors we are likely to take into account in deciding if the time you are charging for is reasonable include:-
the nature of the meeting;
the client’s individual needs;
novelty or complexity (if any) of the advice being tendered;
the client’s frame of mind or ability to understand the proceedings and the consequences of their actions;
the need for an interpreter.
Where relevant, you should give us a detailed and focused narrative exactly why an attendance took longer than would normally be expected by a competent solicitor providing advice on the same subject matter.
Some accounts contain a standard charge for similar (or identical) and often lengthy attendances with a client with a standard supporting narrative. It is unlikely that any solicitor would spend the same time with a client in all circumstances and at all stages of the advice. In these circumstances, we will
usually substantially abate such entries
scrutinise the account more thoroughly, until we are satisfied that the duration of each meeting was reasonable in the circumstances of the particular case. This may lead to delays in payment.
Framing of meeting file notes – no separate fee available
No separate charge is allowed for framing a file note arising from a meeting or telephone call. This is included within the time charge allowable for the meeting, telephone call or other work about which the note was taken.
A&A fees payable after a second or subsequent meeting: situations where we may pay for confirmatory letters
A letter to a client following a meeting confirming that you are going to act on the client’s behalf or you have taken or intend to take the action discussed and agreed at the meeting is essentially duplication of the advice given to the client at the meeting and you cannot charge twice for the same matter. We will only allow a charge where the letter, whilst confirmatory in some aspects, adds to views previously expressed or to information given. However, we will allow a charge for a purely confirmatory letter where you satisfy us that in your opinion the letter was necessary because, for example:
the client was distraught
the subject matter was too complex for the client to remember
the client did not accept the advice given
you need to put on record a time limit and/or date or outcome of a hearing.