New single contact point for exceptional, high cost and immigration cases

The LAA has announced that it will use a single email address as a contact point for immigration applications, high cost civil applications and for exceptional caeses. The new address takes effect from 1 November and the old ones will stop working from 11 November.

It says:

The email address is:

In order to direct your email to the correct team you need to provide specific information in the email subject line. This should include:

  • key words (stated below in bullet points)
  • application / claim form number (if appropriate)
  • client reference number

The key word will change according to where the case sits within the ECC team.

Exceptional Case Funding application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing ECF case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following ‘subject’ titles:

  • ECF
  • Exceptional case funding
  • Direct applicant
  • Inquest

High Cost Civil application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing HCC case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following subject titles:

  • High Cost Civil
  • HCC
  • Case plans
  • QC
  • Events

Immigration application / enquiry

If you are providing information about an ongoing immigration case, or have a question about an application where a certificate has been granted, you should select one of the following subject titles:

  • Immigration
  • Asylum
  • SIAC
  • Special Immigration Appeals Commission

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LAA clarifies potential use of embarrassment clause

The 2017 crime contract contains a controversial clause in the standard terms. Clause 2.2 says:

You shall ensure that neither you nor any of your Affiliates embarrasses us or otherwise brings us into disrepute by engaging in any act or omission which is reasonably likely to diminish the trust that the public places in us, regardless of whether or not such act or omission is related to your obligations under this Contract. Any operation of this Clause is subject to our obligation to act as a responsible public body and any sanction must be proportionate.

Practitioner groups and others were concerned at the chilling effect of the clause and its potential to deter legitimate criticism of the LAA given that breach may lead to contract termination. Acting for Tuckers and Ben Hoare Bell, the Public Law Project sent a letter before action threatening judicial review. PLP has announced that the LAA has responded, saying it is

prepared to consider revising Clause 2.2 and/or making a statement to provide greater clarity for legal aid providers regarding the ambit of the clause, including but not limited to the fact that as a public body the Legal Aid Agency would not seek to rely on the clause to stifle criticism of, or challenges to, the Legal Aid Agency, the Lord Chancellor, or wider government.

You can see the letter before action here and the reply here.


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LAPG Certificate in Practice Management

Most managers in legal aid organisations are ‘accidental managers’. They are good at their job, which might be as a lawyer, finance person or administrator, and  get promoted; but often they don’t actually get trained as managers.

In 2015, Legal Aid Practitioners Group got funding from the UK Commission for Employment and Skills to work with legal aid practitioners to design training and development that would meet their particular needs.  They now have a tried and tested programme, based on the SQM, Lexcel, legal aid contract compliance and incorporating a wide range of good practice. It is suitable for both solicitors firms in private practice and NfP agencies with legal aid contracts.

It offers 60 hours of learning and development, mainly during face to face sessions but also putting what you have learned into practice in your workplace and online learning. The next programme starts in November:

Session 1 Financial Management – 18 November 2016 Understanding the financial implications of running a legal aid practice, understanding accounts, setting budgets, cash flow and forecasting.

Session 2 – Business Planning and Risk Management – 13 January 2017 Also includes gathering management information and using dashboards to review performance and track key metrics.

Session 3 – Legal Aid Contracts, Marketing and developing your profile – 24 February 2017 Senior managers from the LAA will help you understand the contract from the LAA’s perspective. Marketing expert, Jo Edwards, will show you how you can raise awareness of your practice, projects and services, with a particular emphasis on online and social media.

Session 4 – Managing people – 24 March 2017 Matt Howgate and Vicky Ling will help you work through the challenges of managing staff, including setting targets, supervision, bullying and inappropriate behaviour and equality and diversity.

NFP session – 21 April 2017 Fundraising and income generation.

Cost – £1400 for LAPG members – £1600 – non-members Includes all sessions, handouts on all topics covered, ‘grab and go’ guides, textbooks on finance (by Andrew Otterburn) and best management practice for professionals (by Fiona Westwood), lunches and refreshments throughout.

Contact Chris Minnoch

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LAA amends standard costs limits

The LAA is to increase the default costs limits on a range of civil certificates. The new limits are:

  • Actions against the police etc – £6,000
  • Community care – £3,500
  • Immigration and asylum- £4,500
  • Mental health – £5,000
  • Special Children Act cases – £9,000

The new higher limits apply only to substantive cases within the category, not to judicial review. Certificates for judicial review cases, and for categories not listed above, remain at existing default limits. The process for applying to amend a costs limit hasn’t changed, but the LAA hopes fewer applications will be necessary.

Emergency certificates remain at a default limit of £1,350 – though you can exercise the delegated function to amend the cost limit up to £10,000 as long as it is to do urgent work and the emergency certificate hasn’t expired or been subsumed into a substantive one.

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Crime tender: FAQs published

The LAA has released a set of FAQs for the crime tender. The deadline for tender submissions is 15 September – remember to check your bid carefully as the LAA has made several changes to the documentation.

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Upcoming training – with free books!

Our publisher LAG is running training courses by two of the Handbook’s editors as part of its autumn training programme.

Vicky Ling is delivering “Managing Civil Legal Aid Contracts” in London on 15 September. Participants get a free copy of the Handbook. More details here.

Anthony Edwards is embarking on a national tour speaking on criminal costs. Participants get a free copy of our sister publication, Anthony’s book (with Colin Beaumont) Criminal Costs. More details, including dates and venues, here.

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Mediation contracts – take action

The Family Mediation Contract is due to expire on 31 October 2016. You should have received a letter from the LAA (sent on 14 July 2016) offering you an extension to 31 March 2018.

The deadline for returning the offer acceptance form is 23.59 on 4 August 2016. The LAA says that if you do not accept the offer in time, your contract will expire on 31 October 2016 and you will not be entitled to payment for work carried out after that date.

As the summer holidays are upon us, it is possible that the person who would normally deal with the LAA contract is away. It is important that action is taken within the deadline.

More information can be found here.

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