Legal Aid: High Costs Case Update
Pitfalls to avoid:
The LAA have confirmed that the £32,500/£60,000 costs limitation increase generally reflects 60% of the cases. Therefore, the need of an interim case plan is generally unnecessary. The costs limitation is generally given within 2 weeks, but delays are caused by the incorrect documents being uploaded.
The LAA have reminded that the checklists be adhered to avoid delays and that the signed Contract and signed CAF forms are submitted. It has also provided a number of issues that arise in CCFS cases which should be checked to avoid delays/rejections:-
- Include all the Orders which show the listings on the case : these are required to justify underrun/overrun claims.
- Include all vouchers for disbursements and the Court orders for these.
- If distant Counsel is used, an explanation for this is required as the expectation is still that local Counsel be instructed.
- Expert rates outside codified rates should have prior authority to avoid delays/assessment issues.
- Make sure the active fee earner is assigned the matter on CCMS.
- Check that the accurate number of AVM’s are claimed and that Counsel’s attendance is backed up by an attendance note.
- Make sure in 2 Counsel cases that 2 conference are claimed only, unless justification is provided for more.
- Single Counsel: make sure signed contracts are uploaded and with signed CAF forms
Provider transfers: what happens when different rates are claimed by each firm?
There are times when different rates benefit each firm in an Events matter that transfers midway through the case. Examples of this are:
- The First Provider used £1157 and Second Provider wishes to use the £707 plus FAS rates
- Only after the transfer, the main hearing goes over 10 days. The first firm were relying on using the higher Events rate.
The LAA have confirmed that they will consider these situations on a case by case basis, and do not intend on penalising the first firm unduly just because the situation changes after transfer. This suggests that the first firm should be able to continue to claim the high Event rate.
2 Counsel cases: claiming Hourly rates:
There is no escape method as this is not mandatory. However, the 2 Counsel model was based on the most complicated cases that existed. Therefore, the LAA will always look for a comparison when assessing the costs of these. Kutter Walters would always advise on that basis to think carefully whether hourly rates really is the better option, given the risks at the assessment stage. The Events proves is simpler and secures your profit costs.