ACL Legal Aid Group Seminar Overview
This was my first time to meet the very likeable Duo that is Stephen Barker and Rob Damiao of the Legal Aid Agency and what a refreshing change and outlook from the LAA since I last attended a conference. Their stance was such a positive one and they went on to explain to us a little more about their new “ CCMS Checklist”… Initially thought this document, when published, to be some sort of nasty practical joke but with the statistics provided from the LAA, I gained more of an insight into their side of the story and just how many bills were being rejected and holding up payments for solicitor firms. Looking at the statistics 43% of these were due to disbursement vouchers (or lack of these) and as an example; since the (recent) introduction of the checklist, this reject reason is reduced to just 8% and they are at an all time record at the moment, f paying claims within 3 days. The LAA went on to explain how this is so valuable to them as they can spend their time looking into bettering their service and not spending their days rejecting claims.
In light of the above and how the LAA now has more time on their hands… we were given a little nod to the new development of “ New Apply” to streamline and speed up the application process for solicitors firms applying for legal aid on a means basis. This is to evolve using new technology to link their own systems with government approved websites containing personal data and financial information such as the DWP/online banking etc.. This information was hot of the press and early days but just one example of where their freed up times could lead.
Another good reminder was the fact that you are able to re-open a CCMS claim very easily via a general request via CCMS. This is useful to know as claims disappear fairly quickly from CCMS due to the sheer volume of cases live on their systems at any one time (they run into the millions) therefore should a late or amended invoice arrive or counsel decide to bill once a claim is paid and archived, it CAN be pulled from archive swiftly and amended (providing there is sufficient costs limit remaining).
Finally, although not yet relevant to Legal Aid, the mock detailed assessment which took place on the electronic form of the bill with Master Jennifer James was enlightening. Its not applicable to Legal Aid right at this time but I think we all have to acknowledge that it’s coming so to get an insight into what lies ahead and delivered in an entertaining but factual way was very useful. I think all Legal Aid costs practitioners need to at least have a look on the ACL website to see the example bill. It can be downloaded and experimented with if one has some spare time. Paperless working is coming whether we like this or not so best be prepared!