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As every Legal Aid practitioner will know, the Civil Electronic Handbook is a summary document designed for LAA caseworkers to assist them in their work which, of course, includes assessing costs claims presented by solicitors.

The handbook is updated on a regular basis, with the latest version being published on 1.08.2023. However, at an impressive 210 pages long, it’s no surprise that many busy Legal Aid practitioners haven’t had the time to read this page-to-page.

As such we have provided a summary of the seven main points that solicitors should be aware of:

    1. Paper Hearing – In a welcome move, the LAA have provided more guidance on Paper Hearings. It is now confirmed that where the court consider the matter on paper rather than an actual hearing attended by legal representatives, a Unit 1 FAS fee is payable. The LAA add that it must be clear the matter was heard ‘on paper’ (e.g. an administrative order) or that the court considered statements and no parties were present.

     

    1. Panel Membership enhancement – Previously the LAA only allowed a 15% enhancement where a Law Society Children Panel member was involved in proceedings relating to children – but that qualifying criteria has now been removed. So, in effect, a Law Society Children Panel member will be entitled to the same uplift as other panel members, irrespective as to whether the case involved children.

     

    1. Final Hearings – Clearer guidance is now being made as to the circumstances where a Final Hearing FAS fee can be claimed. With the LAA now making transparent that if an opponent has stated in advance, they do not contest the order, or the client makes it clear that they wished to withdraw the application, then a Final hearing FAS fee would not be recoverable. The LAA have also confirmed that a Final Hearing FAS fee can be claimed where a matter settles at an Early Neutral Evaluation Hearing which has been tabled in lieu of a Final Hearing or IRH.

     

    1. Calculating FAS fee – In some applications (e.g. Non Molestation cases), providers often issue an application via email and are required to be ‘on notice’ for the matter to be heard by the Court. In that situation, for the purpose of calculating the FAS fee, this commences from the time the application was issued at Court. The LAA have now confirmed that if papers were issued by email and the parties are not expected to join imminently, the start time would only be from the time the provider was ordered to be available.

     

    1. Independent Social Workers – The hourly rate from 1 June 2023 has increased to an hourly rate of £35.00 from £33.00.

     

    1. Interpreters – To demonstrate it was justifiable to instruct an interpreter above the codified rate, the provider will need to include with their claim i) interpreter’s invoice with a breakdown of costs ii) justification for not applying for Prior Authority (e.g. expedience); and iii) confirmation that there was a scarcity of local interpreters to undertake work at the codified rate. The LAA will then consider each presented claim on an individual basis.

     

    1. Travel and Subsistence Costs – This has increased to £100 for overnight stays on/after 1.09.2023 (from £85.25) in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool or Newcastle) and £65.00 (from £55.25) for elsewhere.

In other changes, the LAA also updated its guidance relating to revoked costs claims (which must be submitted within 6 years), as well as procedures for CCMS documentation request and the removal of booking fees to become administrative costs.

For further information or clarification on any of above, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Brough Partners team via email: info@broughpartners.com 

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Brough Partners

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T: 0191 300 1579
E: info@broughpartners.com