An Interview with Victoria Morrison Hughes: Operations Team

challenges facing the legal sector

 

This is second in our series of interviews with members of the operational team at Recovery First and we are talking to Victoria Morrison-Hughes, who joined in September 2020 as Consultant Costs Lawyers to provide technical costs input to maximise project recoveries.

What was the biggest surprise to you when you joined Recovery First?

As a costs lawyer, I am really impressed with the preservation of the WIP for the donor firm and the realisation of that WIP for both donor and panel firms. The Recovery First scheme does what it says on the tin….It really is the best way for firms to recover their WIP.

Are there any unique costs challenges that face Recovery First and their panel firms when working on projects?

 

Assignment of retainers is a particular challenge. Ensuring all disbursements have been claimed but on RF matters it is particularly important in relation to those incurred of the donor firm and then confirming whether or not they have been paid or are outstanding.

What are the most regular pitfalls you see when working as a Costs Lawyer for firms?

Not securing a proper agreement as to the costs of the action not having a watertight retainer and disbursement liability/exposure on the case not being recorded, particularly in the event that the disbursement is deferred.

 

Is there a way to avoid these issues?

As before …be thorough. Take advice and remember your obligations to the client.

Record somewhere (separate to ledger if needs be) when you have instructed a third party to do something and then record their fee when the invoice comes in. This used to be done on the front of paper files but now more and more firms are becoming paperless this information is not being captured and you are relying on the costs lawyer picking it up (which they should) but this way there are then at least two chances of the disbursement not being missed.

 

What is your main frustration in dealing with Recovery First Cases?

  • Not being provided with all the information that we need in order to advance the case towards settlement and process payments;
  • Not having access to full case management systems;
  • Delay in receiving instructions/responses and;
  • Being reliant on the cost panel assisting in providing information as to why some costs are not recoverable and what issues are anticipated on files – some go into more detail that others.

 

How does what you have done previously support you in your new role with Recovery First?

Working in-house both as Head of Costs and as a consultant in different firms has provided me with invaluable experience and insight into what the demands are on our Recovery First panel members that coupled of course with my qualification and approaching 25 years’ experience as a costs lawyer.

Coming from a family of client facing self-employed people has helped me enormously in being both highly realistic of the commercial needs and pressures and that we are providing a service – never forgetting who the clients are.

 

What do you know now that would have made the biggest difference to your younger self?

be more confident in my own knowledge and skillset.

 

What have you found hardest to deal with in these COVID times?

Not being able to actually meet people. Video calls are getting easier but conversation doesn’t flow the same.

 

What is your top tip for working from home?

When I am making lunch, I don’t have to make lunch for everyone else – they can all look after themselves. To take a break and to make myself call people for a chat.

 

Who are in your family bubble?

My husband and my two teenage sons.

 

What do you do when you are not at work?

 

Baking/Cooking and yoga

Meeting friends – going out for meals when not in lockdown.

 

What’s your favourite tipple?

Rose or red wine but my absolute indulgence is a brandy alexander. Not had one for years….too many calories!

 

What’s your desert island disc, book and luxury?

I always sing along to White Lines (Don’t do it) by Grandmaster Flash & Melle Mel – kids love that one

I used to love dancing to anything by Prince – can’t remember the last time I did that!

I was introduced to The Celestine Prophecy which was brilliant so I think I could read that over and over again.

My luxury on a desert island would be the sunshine – don’t need much more than that!